Research Study #1

Assessment of Occupational Exposure to Manganese and Other Metals in Welding Fumes by Portable X-ray Fluorescence Spectrometer

Laohaudomchok, W; Cavallari, JM; Fang, SC; Lin, X; Herrick, RF; Christiani, DC; Weisskopf, MG

Elemental analysis of welding fume samples can be done using several laboratory-based techniques. However, portable measurement techniques could offer several advantages. In this study, we sought to determine whether the portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometer (XRF) is suitable for analysis of five metals (manganese, iron, zinc, copper, and chromium) on 37-mm polytetrafluoroethylene filters. Using this filter fitted on a cyclone in line with a personal pump, gravimetric samples were collected from a group of boilermakers exposed to welding fumes. We assessed the assumption of uniform deposition of these metals on the filters, and the relationships between measurement results of each metal obtained from traditional laboratory-based XRF and the portable XRF.

For all five metals of interest, repeated measurements with the portable XRF at the same filter area showed good consistency (reliability ratios are equal or close to 1.0 for almost all metals). The portable XRF readings taken from three different areas of each filter were not significantly different (p-values = 0.77 to 0.98). This suggested that the metal rich PM2.5 deposits uniformly on the samples collected using this gravimetric method. For comparison of the two XRFs, the results from the portable XRF were well correlated and highly predictive of those from the laboratory XRF. The Spearman correlation coefficients were from 0.325 for chromium, to 0.995 for manganese and 0.998 for iron. The mean differences as a percent of the mean laboratory XRF readings were also small (< 5%) for manganese, iron, and copper. The differences were greater for zinc and chromium, which were present at very low amounts in our samples and below the limits of detection of the portable XRF for many of the samples. These five metals were moderately to strongly correlated with the total fine particle fraction on filters (Spearman rho = 0.41 for zinc to 0.97 for iron). Such strong correlations and comparable results suggested that the portable XRF could be used as an effective and reliable tool for exposure assessment in many studies.

( Published in Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, 2010; 7(8): 456-465 )

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