Welcome to my 2nd Lab Corner column for 2011. I lot has happened since my last column. The Japan earth quake, tsunami and nuclear crisis and here in the United States our government budget crisis. On the positive side, however, spring has arrived with yellow daffodils, purple crocus and green grass beginning to grow. As for protective clothing happenings, I would like to bring you up to date on the ASTM F23 Committee meeting that Rich and I attended in Baltimore, MD in February.

As I mentioned in my last column, we planned to attend this meeting to express our concerns about the availability of the standard neoprene reference material used as a quality control check for the ASTM F 739 Permeation Test Method. We found out that the committee was considering an alternative reference material that was readily available, consistent in thickness and not subject to changes in environmental conditions with time. The committee was considering Mylar as a candidate material and was soliciting volunteers to participate in a preliminary round robin test to determine both breakthrough time and permeation rate. Once this was completed they would evaluate the data, make a recommendation to the F23.30 subcommittee and vote to accept the material as a reference for a precision and bias statement to be added to the F739 permeation test method. The committee is in need of more volunteers to participate in this evaluation, so if you are interested you should contact the ASTM F23 staff manager at ASTM headquarters and/or the F23.30 Sub Committee Chairman. Information on ASTM’s F23 Committee on Protective Clothing and Equipment can be found on ASTM’s web site, astm.org. Both Rich and I enjoyed participating in the committee meeting and I also had an opportunity to make some editorial corrections to calculations in the method as well as share memories with current and past members of the committee.

As for permeation testing, I am still busy doing testing of glove and suit materials for my former employer. The test requests are being driven by regulatory organizations such as the EPA that would like to have glove recommendations for the registration of new chemicals applied to agricultural products used abroad. I also have had a recent request to evaluate gloves being used for a specific chemical that has recently been suspected of being neuro-toxic. While the users claim that they have worn their current gloves for many years without adverse effects, there is still uncertainty about whether the gloves are resistant to the chemical. Selecting gloves for testing can be challenging because of the large variety of polymer materials to choose from, so I generally recommend testing the current gloves that are in use and then consult with the Quick Selection Guide to Chemical Protective Clothing, 5th Edition published by Wiley-Inter-Science and authored by Zach Mansdorf and Kristen Forsberg. This guidebook contains information on hazardous chemicals and recommendations for the selection of protective clothing materials based on published and unpublished test data. I review most of the permeation data published in this guide and find it very helpful when trying to recommend other clothing materials to test.

In other protective clothing developments, I would like to mention that I saw recent advertisement for office worker’s gloves that would protect against paper cuts and knicks from staples and metal paper clips. Although this is not related to chemical permeation resistance, I thought you might be interested to know that not all occupations are immune from injuries and that penetration resistance is also a problem in the workplace too. Finally, I also thought you might be interested to know that I read a report that came out the American Chemical Society’s national meeting in San Diego last month. You may recall over two years ago a University of Southern California graduate student died from severe burns she received while working with a pyro-phorphic chemical in a laboratory. The ACS committee on Chemical Health and Safety maintained then, that if the student was wearing a Nomex laboratory coat she might not have sustained severe burns to her body, so now they were glad to hear that there was mention that maybe Nomex lab coats should be worn in chemical laboratories particularly when working with pyro-phorphic chemicals. Unfortunately, it may take incidents like this to decide to wear protective clothing, but that by testing protective clothing for chemical, puncture or fire resistance you are making a difference in lives of many workers.

Norm Henry