Polyurethane foam disks are a cheap and versatile tool for sampling persistent organic pollutants (POPs) from the air in ambient, occupational and indoor settings. This study provides important background information on the ways in which the performance of these commonly used passive air samplers may be influenced by the key environmental variables of wind speed and aerosol entrapment. Studies were performed in the field, a wind tunnel and with microscopy techniques, to investigate deployment conditions and foam density influence on gas phase sampling rates (not obtained in this study) and aerosol trapping. The study showed: wind speed inside the sampler is greater on the upper side of the sampling disk than the lower side and tethered samplers have higher wind speeds across the upper and lower surfaces of the foam disk at a wind speed ≥4 m/s; particles are trapped on the foam surface and within the body of the foam disk; fine (<1 um) particles can form clusters of larger size inside the foam matrix. Whilst primarily designed to sample gas phase POPs, entrapment of particles ensures some ‘sampling’ of particle bound POPs species, such as higher molecular weight PAHs and PCDD/Fs. Further work is required to investigate how quantitative such entrapment or ‘sampling’ is under different ambient conditions, and with different aerosol sizes and types.
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