Elemental carbon-based method for occupational monitoring of particulate diesel exhaust: methodology and exposure issues
Diesel exhaust has been classified a probable human carcinogen, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has recommended that employers reduce workers' exposures. Because diesel exhaust is a chemically complex mixture containing thousands of compounds, some measure of exposure must be selected. Previously used methods involving gravimetry or analysis of the soluble organic fraction of diesel soot lack adequate sensitivity and selectivity for low-level determination of particulate diesel exhaust; a new analytical approach was therefore needed. In this paper, results of investigation of a thermal–optical technique for the analysis of the carbonaceous fraction of particulate diesel exhaust are discussed. With this technique, speciation of organic and elemental carbon is accomplished through temperature and atmosphere control and by an optical feature that corrects for pyrolytically generated carbon, or ‘char,’ which is formed during the analysis of some materials. The thermal–optical method was selected because the instrument has desirable design features not present in other carbon analysers. Although various carbon types are determined by the method, elemental carbon is the superior marker of diesel particulate matter because elemental carbon constitutes a large fraction of the particulate mass, it can be quantified at low levels and its only significant source in most workplaces is the diesel engine. Exposure-related issues and sampling methods for particulate diesel exhaust also are discussed.