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New device warns workers of high levels of airborne metals in minutes rather than weeks

Date:
May 31, 2012
Source:
American Chemical Society
Summary:
Scientists are reporting development of a new paper-based device that can warn workers that they are being exposed to potentially unhealthy levels of airborne metals almost immediately, instead of the weeks required with current technology. The device costs about one cent to make and could prevent illness in the millions of people who work with metal.

Scientists are reporting development of a new paper-based device that can warn workers that they are being exposed to potentially unhealthy levels of airborne metals almost immediately, instead of the weeks required with current technology. The report on the device, which costs about one cent to make and could prevent illness in the millions of people who work with metal, appears in ACS' journal Analytical Chemistry.

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Charles Henry and colleagues explain that worldwide, job-related respiratory illnesses are associated with about 425,000 deaths each year. Airborne metals are a major cause of these respiratory conditions. Millions of workers handle metals on a regular basis in construction, manufacturing and transportation jobs, and small bits of these metals can get into the air as a fine mist, which workers can inhale. Airborne metal exposure is linked to lung and liver cancers, respiratory conditions (asthma, emphysema and bronchitis) and immune disorders. Despite the seriousness of this issue, people have used the same metal-monitoring method for the past 25 years. The current method is expensive, and the analysis takes weeks. To overcome these challenges, the researchers developed an inexpensive device made of paper that reports results at levels relevant to human health almost immediately. This gives workers a chance to leave a potentially dangerous area before it is too late.

The researchers obtain air samples on a small disc of paper, then put this disc onto the center of the paper-based device, called a μPAD, or micro-PAD. Water is dripped onto the disc, and the metals in the sample are wicked onto the μPAD, where they come into contact with various chemicals already impregnated into the paper. These substances react with the metals and turn different colors, depending on which metals are present. The device accurately determined the amounts of iron, nickel and copper in the air in laboratory tests.

The authors acknowledge funding from the MAP-ERC and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Chemical Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Mallory M. Mentele, Josephine Cunningham, Kirsten Koehler, John Volckens, Charles S. Henry. Microfluidic Paper-Based Analytical Device for Particulate Metals. Analytical Chemistry, 2012; 84 (10): 4474 DOI: 10.1021/ac300309c

Cite This Page:

American Chemical Society. "New device warns workers of high levels of airborne metals in minutes rather than weeks." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120531112503.htm>.
American Chemical Society. (2012, May 31). New device warns workers of high levels of airborne metals in minutes rather than weeks. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120531112503.htm
American Chemical Society. "New device warns workers of high levels of airborne metals in minutes rather than weeks." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120531112503.htm (accessed December 17, 2014).

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