Many areas with vapour intrusion potential are identified during Phase I and Phase II assessments mandated when commercial or industrial properties change hands. This increased surveillance, coupled with advances in both measurement technology and toxicological risk assessment about low-level, chronic exposures, has identified many sites with potential vapour intrusion problems.
Although assessment of ground water and soil vapour contamination normally leads to identifying areas potentially affected by vapour intrusion, ultimately the exposure of occupants is of most concern and the indoor air needs to be assessed to ensure that exposures are within acceptable limits. This requires direct measurement of indoor air.
Traditionally, three types of methods are used to assess indoor air levels of VOCs. No method is perfect or suitable for all compounds or in all situations, so it is important to select the one that satisfies the requirements of the assessment for the target compounds. Moreover, indoor levels fluctuate due to many factors including diurnal variations, building activities and occupancy. Also, as weather systems move over contaminated areas, the passage of successive low and high-pressure systems results in a pumping effect that causes indoor levels to fluctuate. To determine the concentrations of the target compounds, the collection method should have sufficient sensitivity, accuracy and precision over the required assessment period.
The Typlical Methods Available for Indoor (and Outdoor) Measurements are as Follows
Each of the methods has advantages and disadvantages. Canisters and solid sorbent tubes generally provide the best sensitivity. So, if sensitivity is a major consideration and can not be adequately addressed otherwise, then these should be the methods of choice. In contaminated indoor environments this is generally not an issue, however. Canister and solid sorbent methods can be noisy and obtrusive indoors and may not be suitable for measuring the broad range of concentrations that occur. Moreover, they can be very expensive to use. The cost issue can limit their usefulness in large-scale surveys sometimes necessary to delineate the extent of sub-surface contamination. The analysis methods can also be complex and lengthy, resulting in long reporting intervals. This can make residents anxious as they await results about their living or work space.
Passive sampling alleviates many of these concerns and deficiencies. Passive samplers are small and unobtrusive. In addition, since they require no pump, they make no noise. They are easily deployed and retrieved, and in general meet the requirements for accuracy, precision and sensitivity for most target compounds. Moreover, handling and processing is simplified so costs are reduced significantly and response times are quicker.
Airzone has developed specific expertise with passive sampling devices (PSDs) as a result of over 30 years of development work in our test atmosphere generation systems. We have used PSDs in large scale surveys, in diagnostic studies, for evaluation of personal exposures, in traffic studies, etc., in cooperative projects with governments and universities. With this extensive experience and through careful development of handling and analysis procedures, we have developed protocols with measurement attributes (precision, accuracy and detection limits) that meet Ministry of Environment guidelines. Moreover, PSDs allow variation in sampling intervals, allowing not just daily sampling but extended sampling intervals (1-week, 1-month) more suitable for toxicological evaluations of exposures. By using this method, we are able to deploy fewer specialists in the field and improve the speed for reporting results.