Levitt-Safety Blog

How to measure dust in the workplace

Jonathan McCallumMarket Segment Manager: Occupational Health, Industrial Hygiene & Environmental MonitoringMay 10, 2019

Air pollution is the biggest environmental threat to public health according to the World Economic Forum.

Whether you work inside or outdoors, it’s likely that your work environment comes with its own unique set of dust challenges.

The top methods for measuring dust particles:

This post looks at the top methods used for measuring dust particles.

We identify how the instruments work, the environments they’re commonly used in and the top brands available through Levitt-Safety.

Browse dust and particulate monitors online.

Small granite rock stone fly isolated on black background.

1. Air Sampling Pumps

Air sampling pumps are a trusted method for sampling dusts, fumes and mists to determine what particulates are present in a work environment

They are often used when sampling is required for regulatory and health-based requirements to determine a worker’s exposure to a particular substance.

How do air sampling pumps work?

Air sampling requires a suitable pump, cassette with media, tubing and calibrator. Once a sample is collected, it's sent for analysis according to the sampling method used.

NIOSH and OSHA developed sampling methods for many substances found in industries across Canada. These methods guide users through the sampling process including:

  • flow rate and volume
  • sample media, and
  • analysis technique.

Industries that use air sampling pumps:

  • Mining
  • Manufacturing
  • Industrial hygiene
  • Pharmaceutical

What are the top air sampling pump brands?

The GilAir Plus by Sensidyne is a newer pump on the market.

You can detect and measure up to 3 levels of activity -- active, stationery and inactive -- for each worker to ensure sample integrity.

The GilAir Plus has Bluetooth connectivity which allows pump status to be monitored with a mobile device, automatic restart on fault condition, data logging and automatic calibration.

You can pair the GilAir Plus with the Power™ series of pumps like the 800i, 5000, 10i and 12. These pumps offer the highest back pressure capability on the market for tough sampling environments.

Hand holding the gilair plus gilian air sampling instrument.

2. Optical Particle Counter (OPC)

Optical particle counters are proving themselves to be one of the most versatile methods of dust monitoring.

These instruments are currently available as portable, wearable and fixed devices that provide valuable features for those looking for real-time data related to dust in the workplace.

How do optical particle counters work?

OPCs use a laser to count particles with light-scattering technology. The particles can be separated based on their size (0.3–25µm) allowing a user to collect data based on a total sample or specific to a targeted particle size without the use of impactors or other size-selective devices.

Industries that use optical particle counters:

  • Cleanrooms
  • Healthcare
  • Mining
  • Oil & Gas
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Electronics
  • Any workplace that is concerned with indoor air quality

What are the top optical particle counter brands?

Particles Plus offer portable and fixed particle counters with valuable features for the safety professional.

These instruments are easy to configure, display up to six size channels, can be Wi-Fi enabled as well as configured to measure temperature, relative humidity, CO2 and VOC in addition to a particle mass concentration (µg/m3) mode.

particles plus optical particle counter

The Nanozen DustCount 9000 is a wearable device that has the ability to provide real-time data as well as collect a sample on a filter for lab analysis in a small compact size.

Data collected by the instrument can be used for immediate decision-making or recorded and downloaded for future use.

Nanozen DustCount 900 product image

3. Condensation Particle Counter (CPC)

Much like Optical Particle Counters, Condensation Particle Counters use a laser to count particles as they scatter the light of a focused laser.

How do condensation particle counters work?

Similar to optical particle counters, condensation particle counters use a laser to count particles as they scatter the light of a focused laser.

The difference is CPCs detect particle sizes between 0.015 and 1.0µm. These are considered to be ultrafine particles.

CPCs generally require the use of alcohol vapour to grow the particles to a size large enough to scatter light.

Industries that use condensation particle counters:

  • Particle research
  • Manufacturing facilities
  • Pharmaceutical plants
  • Filter testing
  • Combustion analysis
  • Indoor air quality

What are the top condensation particle counter brands?

The Kanomax 3800 is a handheld condensation particle counter with a concentration range of 0-100,000 particles/cm3.

It comes with full data logging capabilities, sample probes and software to complement sampling equipment.

The PC interface lets you get real-time measurements while displaying time fluctuation graphs.

kanomax 3800 condensation particle counter

4. Photometer/Nephelometer

Photometers are used to measure larger dust particles with a light source and detector.

How do photometers work?

Unlike the other methods, photometers look at the size, shape, density and reflectivity of particles to determine quantity which is measured in mg/m3.

Calibration factors can be used to adjust instrument response to known particulate properties.

It’s important to note that size-selective inlets are required when looking at specific particle sizes.

Industries that use photometers:

  • Mining
  • Construction
  • Manufacturing

What are the top Photometer brands?

The Sensidyne Nephelometer with a 0.0001–10mg/m3 range is a proven real-time handheld dust monitor.

Sample modes are selectable between 60-second sample, 15-minute STEL, or continuous sampling.

The available TSP, PM10, PM4 and PM2.5 make it a versatile instrument for many environments.

Start measuring dust in your workplace

These four methods are among the most popular ways to detect and measure dust in the workplace.

the sensidyne nephelometer

If you have any questions or concerns about your unique dust monitoring needs, contact us. Our team of instrument specialists can make product recommendations that will best fit your needs!