MS and MPH students in the Industrial Hygiene program must complete a Culminating Experience that most often takes the form of a small research project. PhD students conduct larger research projects that produce a dissertation and manuscripts that are submitted for publication to technical journals. Students may conduct research that is laboratory-based or field-based, or some combination of the two.
INDUSTRIAL HYGIENE LABORATORY
The Industrial Hygiene Laboratory, shared by the IH core faculty, occupies 2,500 sq. ft. and is equipped with the latest instrumentation for measurement of gases, vapors, particulate matter, biological aerosols, noise, radiation, and hazardous materials. The lab consists of a large room occupied by a wind tunnel, a filter tester, and two biological safety cabinets; a smaller room with a walk-in exposure chamber and two laboratory hoods; a wet-chemistry laboratory with work benches and another lab hood; and several smaller work, storage, and office spaces. For aerosol research and measurements, the IH Lab has condensation particle counters for measuring nanoparticle concentrations, nephelometers for measuring aerosol mass concentrations, diffusion chargers capable of measuring surface area concentrations, instruments for measuring particle size distributions, samplers for collecting biological aerosols, and numerous gravimetric samplers and cascade impactors. To analyze filter samples, microbalances and microscopes are present. The IH Lab owns equipment for gas and vapor sampling, including direct reading instruments for measuring ammonia and hydrogen sulfide concentrations and concentrations of organic vapors. The lab also has typical industrial hygiene devices such as flow calibrators, sampling and vacuum pumps, Dräger pumps and tubes, noise dosimeters, velometers, manometers, pressure gauges, pitot tubes, and centrifugal fans. Equipment is available for generating different kinds of gases, vapors, and aerosols for experiments.
EXPOSURE SCIENCE AND SUSTAINABILITY INSTITUTE (ESSI)
The Exposure Science and Sustainability Institute (ESSI) in the University of Minnesota Division of Environmental Health Sciences was founded in 2015 by Dr. Susan Arnold and Dr. Gurumurthy Ramachandran to provide excellence in Exposure Science and Sustainability research and training, responding to industry identified needs.
Through ESSI, faculty and students conduct applied research to help industry answer practical questions. They generate the data to support data-driven exposure and risk management decision making, facilitating world-class product stewardship, and conduct training to ensure practicing IH and EHS professionals have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed. Through the use of the state-of-the-art full-size exposure chamber and instruments, they can measure a broad range of chemical agents and exposure scenarios for companies and industry groups, and they also conduct field surveys and assessments, providing companies and communities with exposure assessment information and health risks.
EXAMPLES OF RECENT RESEARCH PROJECTS:
Characterizing and Controlling Beauty Salon Professional Exposures to Chemicals Associated with Formulated Hair and Nail Products
To fill critical knowledge gaps, this research first seeks to characterize exposures resulting from the airborne emission of chemicals that emanate from beauty salon products. The exposure assessments, including detailed habits and practices data, have expanded the worker exposure data set for this female- and minority/new immigrant-dominated industry sector. Dr. Arnold led this research with participation by MPH student Chinomso Ibe. In addition, Dr. Anderson is investigating exposure control methods, especially downdraft tables, for removing pollutants from the air in nail salons before workers are exposed. PhD student Kate Greenberg is participating on this project.
Healthcare Worker Exposures to Antineoplastic Drugs
Eight million healthcare workers worldwide are at risk of being exposed to antineoplastic drugs through direct or indirect contact, with epidemiologic evidence of excessive risk of breast cancer and adverse reproductive outcomes. Dr. Arnold and MS student Hannah Kaup have found that antineoplastic drugs may be dispersed widely across surfaces in healthcare workplaces based on observations of patterns of contact from the contaminated hands of clinical staff. Dermal exposures among the staff and other workers are likely. In addition, Dr. Arnold and Ms. Kaup have collaborated with colleagues at the University of British Columbia to collect and analyze thousands of samples from clinics. A website is being developed to make data publicly available.
Airborne Measurements of Dust, Endotoxin and Contaminant Gases in Swine Production
This three-year project, led by Dr. Raynor and supported by the NIOSH-funded Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health (UMASH) Center, studied how changing production practices and facilities in the swine industry relate to worker exposures to airborne pollutants. Findings indicated that season is the most important factor influencing pollutant levels in Minnesota, primarily due to changes in ventilation. In addition, regular power washing of empty rooms provided significant exposure risks for workers, indicating that respiratory protection should be considered for workers using high-pressure cleaners.
Optimizing Assessment of Virus-Containing Particles in Animal Agriculture
Those working in animal agriculture are at risk of airborne exposure to infectious viruses, such as zoonotic influenza viruses. To assess exposures to viral aerosols and manage them effectively, we must know the concentrations and sizes of particles with which infectious airborne viruses are associated. The objectives of this research are to develop a high-volume, field-portable, size-differentiating viral aerosol sampler and to use it to measure worker exposures to live airborne influenza viruses in animal agriculture facilities. Dr. Raynor, PhD student Adepeju Adesina, and colleagues at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine have evaluated of samplers side-by-side to determine the optimal combination of sampler properties and parameters for airborne viruses. Using the results from these comparisons and tapping into the computational fluid dynamics modeling expertise of Dr. Anderson, the team is currently designing an improved sampler.
Efficacy of Low Cost Particle Sensors
Dr. Anderson has developed a line of research to assess the ability of low-cost sensors to measure particle concentrations accurately. This has involved laboratory validation of sampler performance and use of sensors in the outdoor environment. Key applications may be to evaluate the impacts of various types of transportation on particles to which workers and the public are exposed. PhD student El’gin Avila is starting to become involved in this research.