Spring has officially arrived and the daffodils in my yard are in full bloom. It’s also time for my second quarterly column on permeation testing of protective clothing. On the standards front ASTM Committee F23 had their first meeting this year in Phoenix, AZ in February. Most of the discussion focused on forming alliances and liaison with other standard organizations such as ANSI, NIST, NFPA and research activities at NIOSH , to pool research efforts together on protective clothing performance and needs for consumers. A MOU (memorandum of understanding) was agreed upon between ASTM and NIOSH for cooperative work in the area of personal protective equipment at NIOSH’s National Protective Technology Laboratory (NPPTL) in Pittsburg, PA. NIOSH and the laboratory are soliciting input from consumers about their needs since many consumers are not represented at the technical standard setting meetings. Hopefully these surveys will gather input on their issues for improving the performance of protective clothing and provide direction for the development of better standards, specifications and guides for use. Currently most of the efforts have focused on clothing use, selection and performance for emergency situations in which weapons of mass destruction, bio-terrorism or chemical agents are used. Although this is important, there is still a need to protect workers in some of the new developing technologies such as nanotechnology. Also of interest in ASTM Committee F23 is a proposed change in scope from just protective clothing to protective clothing and equipment. This change in scope of activity in F23 would have to be approved by society ballot and be accepted by COTCO, ASTM’s Committee on Technical Committee Organization. On final note, the F23’s subcommittee on radiation hazards F23.70 voted to accept its first new standard for measuring the attenuation effects of lead aprons against X-rays, but later withdrew it to be modified to cover broader needs such as gloves worn by X-ray technicians. The next F23 committee meeting will be held in Toronto, Canada June 13-14.
As for my own activities, I have completed a project to train and assist personnel at the Washington Savannah River National Laboratory on H-3 permeation studies using the ASTM F-739 permeation test method. This work was initiated to evaluate the performance of protective suits to H-3 (tritium) permeation to meet specification guidelines for storage and shelf life of coated suit material. Results have been shared, but no formal report written. It was an exciting experience for me to work in a DOE facility with all the security and radiation monitoring devices. Incidentally, this is the first time for me that the challenge glass chamber was used on the collection side too, so that aqueous samples could be removed and analyzed for H-3 by liquid scintillation counting. Also, because of potential H-3 contamination on the glass cells and cost for decontamination, they were disposed of after the 8 hour test rather than cleaned. I hope to be able to share some pictures of the test cells in use during this study in the radiation containment hood and laboratory.