Happy New Year and welcome back to my quarterly column on protective clothing testing and evaluation. Each New Year we resolve to do things better or set goals to accomplish new things in what ever we do. As a safety consultant, I am always looking for improved safety equipment, procedures and test methods to evaluate the performance of protective clothing. Producers of protective clothing will be introducing new product lines that need performance data, users of protective clothing will be considering new procedures and regulations that may impact their business and safety performance. For new test methods, I always look to ASTM’s Committee F23 on Protective Clothing. They have been the traditional source of new test method development, procedures, specifications and guidelines. This year the committee will have its first meeting in February in Phoenix, AZ where it will review ballot results on proposed changes, modifications and upgrades to existing methods as well consider new standards. Committee F23 currently has about 40 standard test methods, practices, guides and specifications on protective clothing. They all can be found in the Annual Book of ASTM Standards 2005, Section Eleven, Volume 11.03, Atmospheric Analysis; Occupational Health and Safety; Protective Clothing. The Committee will also discuss plans for new activities, subcommittees and officers for the coming year. For more information on Committee F 23 check out ASTM web site (www.astm.org). Also, ASTM is offering Committee F23’s latest STP on Protective Clothing: Global Needs and Emerging Markets 8th Volume, STP 1462. This book has the latest information on the performance of protective clothing for government and industrial workers, first responders and civilians.

As I mentioned earlier, the New Year gives us an opportunity to accomplish new things. I think the challenge in protective clothing this year will be to look at the safety performance of protective apparel in Biotechnology and Nanotechnology, since these are the emerging fields in the economy today. Very little is known about the use and performance of protective clothing in these areas including specific test methods and guidance for selection and protection. Given the small size and unknown hazards of biological agents and nano-particles, specific test methods should be developed. Perhaps the ASTM F739 Permeation Test method needs to be modified to include the permeation of nano-particles in solution or the F903 Test method to include nano-particle penetration?

In my last 2005 quarterly column I mentioned that this year I would focus on specific permeation test set ups and procedures. The basic one sided exposure to the surface of a sample of protective clothing can be done with either the one or two inch permeation test cell using air, nitrogen or a liquid collection medium. This can be done either in the closed or open loop configuration depending on your analytical method and automated sampling system. In general, the closed loop configuration is the easiest to perform with a liquid collection medium and wet colorimetric analytical method. Samples can be with drawn at selected time intervals and analyzed by a spectrophotometer at specific wavelength. For example the permeation of a solution of formaldehyde, a preservative used in pathology laboratories, can be done using the classical chromotrophic acid color reaction. This same color reaction is used to measure airborne concentrations of formaldehyde trapped in solution by impingers. Finally, remember that all your permeation test cell needs and reference materials can be ordered through Pesce Lab Sales in Kennett Square, PA. More information can also be found on their web site www.pescelabsales.com or by calling 610-444-1440.