Chamber for Testing Asbestos-Containing Products: Validation and Testing of Re-Created Chrysotile-Containing Joint Compound

August 1, 2011

Dr. Patrick Sheehan and co-authors have published, "Chamber for Testing Asbestos-Containing Products: Validation and Testing of Re-Created Chrysotile-Containing Joint Compound," in the Annals of Occupational Hygiene.


Joint compound products containing chrysotile asbestos were commonly used for building construction from the late 1940s through the mid-1970s. Few relevant data exist to support reconstructing historical worker exposures to fibers generated by working with this material. Therefore, we re-created 1960s-era chrysotile-containing joint compound (JCC) and compared its characteristics to a current-day asbestos-free joint compound (JCN).

Validation studies showed that a bench-scale chamber with controlled flow dynamics, designed to quantify particulate emissions from joint compound products, provided precise and reliable measurements of generated airborne dust mass, chrysotile fiber concentrations, and corresponding activity-specific emission rates. Subsequent chamber studies characterized fibers counted by phase contrast microscopy (PCM) per mass of respirable dusts and total suspended particulate dusts (total dusts), generated during JCC sanding or sweeping, as well as corresponding dust emission rates for JCC and JCN, and the ratio of total to respirable dust mass for JCN.

From these data we estimated factors, F(CH-rd) and F(CH-td) (in units of f cm(-3) per mg m(-3)), by which respirable JCN dust mass concentrations collected during construction use can be converted to corresponding airborne PCM fiber concentrations generated by sanding or sweeping JCC. For sanding, median values (95% confidence limits) of F(CH-rd) and F(CH-td) were estimated to be 0.044 (0.039-0.050) and 0.212 (0.115-0.390) f cm(-3) per mg m(-3), respectively. The F(CH-td) to F(CH-rd) ratio indicates that approximately five times as many airborne PCM fibers are anticipated per unit air volume sampled when JCC dust is collected on cassettes (as done historically), then when respirable JCC dust is collected on cyclones. As the sizes of individual fibers collected appear to be primarily respirable, this difference may be a sampling artifact and suggests caution in interpreting historical fiber concentration measures made using cassettes during work with JCC-like materials.

F(CH-rd) can be used with published and newly generated field measurements of respirable dust mass concentrations associated with the use of JCN or equivalent JCN materials to better characterize historical worker exposures to PCM fibers from use of JCC or equivalent JCCs. The experimental process described also can be used to develop conversion factors for other combinations of modern-day asbestos-free and historical chrysotile-containing products.

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