Potential Artifacts Associated with Historical Preparation of Joint Compound Samples and Reported Airborne Asbestos Concentrations

May 1, 2011

Dr. Patrick Sheehan and co-authors have published the article, "Potential Artifacts Associated with Historical Preparation of Joint Compound Samples and Reported Airborne Asbestos Concentrations," in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene.


​Airborne samples collected in the 1970s for drywall workers using asbestos-containing joint compounds were likely prepared and analyzed according to National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health Method P&CAM 239, the historical precursor to current Method 7400. Experimentation with a re-created, chrysotile-containing, carbonate-based joint compound suggested that analysis following sample preparation by the historical vs. current method produces different fiber counts, likely because of an interaction between the different clearing and mounting chemicals used and the carbonate-based joint compound matrix.

Differences were also observed during analysis using Method 7402, depending on whether acetic acid/dimethylformamide or acetone was used during preparation to collapse the filter. Specifically, air samples of sanded chrysotile-containing joint compound prepared by the historical method yielded fiber counts significantly greater (average of 1.7-fold, 95% confidence interval: 1.5- to 2.0-fold) than those obtained by the current method. In addition, air samples prepared by Method 7402 using acetic acid/dimethylformamide yielded fiber counts that were greater (2.8-fold, 95% confidence interval: 2.5- to 3.2-fold) than those prepared by this method using acetone.

These results indicated (1) there is an interaction between Method P&CAM 239 preparation chemicals and the carbonate-based joint compound matrix that reveals fibers that were previously bound in the matrix, and (2) the same appeared to be true for Method 7402 preparation chemicals acetic acid/dimethylformamide. This difference in fiber counts is the opposite of what has been reported historically for samples of relatively pure chrysotile dusts prepared using the same chemicals. This preparation artifact should be considered when interpreting historical air samples for drywall workers prepared by Method P&CAM 239.

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