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Passive Air Sampling: Advantages, Limitations, and Challenges

Fan, Zih-Hua Tina

doi: 10.1097/01.ede.0000392075.06031.d9
Abstracts: ISEE 22nd Annual Conference, Seoul, Korea, 28 August–1 September 2010: Assessment Methodology for Newly Emerging Exposures in Environmental Epidemiology

University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Piscataway, NJ.

Abstracts published in Epidemiology have been reviewed by the societies at whose meetings the abstracts have been accepted for presentation. These abstracts have not undergone review by the Editorial Board of Epidemiology.


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Accurate measurement of air pollutants in outdoor, indoor, and or personal air is critical for assessing exposure to air pollution and potential health effects. Passive sampler is becoming more and more an effective alternative for conventional active sampler in exposure and health effects studies, given its simplicity and low cost. Also, many passive samplers are capable of providing comparable performance to active samplers in terms of sensitivity and reproducibility.

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A variety types of passive samplers with different adsorption media, trapping principles, geometric designs, and the techniques used for the release of the trapped analytes and their final determination techniques have been developed to measure different air pollutants, including single pollutant, such as O3 and SO2, and a group of chemicals, such as Volatile organic compounds, carbonyls, semi-volatile organic compounds (such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and polybrominated diphenyl ethers). Those samplers have been widely used in exposure and epidemiological studies and found very desirable in many situations, such as monitoring of small children, senior people, and pregnant women, as well as synchronic monitoring air pollutants at multiple locations and microenvironments in community exposure studies. However, limitations still exist for passive samplers.

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Many samplers are subject to effects of temperature, sampling duration, wind speed, and air concentrations. Also, a long sampling time is often required in order to get enough mass for detection. Further, it is a challenge to measure non-volatile species by passive sampler due to the low diffusion of particle to the adsorption medium. Thus, there is a need to develop a sensitive, reliable, inexpensive, and friendly use passive sampler for the species primarily distributed in particle phase.

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Last, a suitable and simple validation system needs to be developed for the evaluation of passive samplers performances for semi-volatile organic compounds and particles.

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