||Chemical substances and aerosols are harmful agents occurring in the working environment in almost all sectors of the national economy. They may be dangerous to the health and life of employees and to the natural environment. Research into these hazards in the working environment is conducted by the Department of Chemical and Aerosol Hazards.
| Małgorzata Pośniak, Ph.D.
|Jolanta Skowroń, Ph.D.
The Department of Chemical Hazards was established in 1950, headed by Kazimierz Zięborak, M.Sc., (Eng.), as one of the first Institute departments. In 1952, Antoni Sentek, Ph., Eng., took over the management, and the Department’s name was changed to the Department of Chemistry, to be changed again later, in 1969, to the Department of Industrial Chemistry. The Department was headed by, successively: Professor Gabriel Włodarski, Ph.D. (1979-81), Krzysztof Benczek, Ph.D. (1981-83), Halina Puchalska, Ph.D. (1984-98), and since 1998 – Małgorzata Pośniak, Ph.D. Until 1983, the Department of Industrial Chemistry comprised of only two laboratories: the Laboratory of Chemical Analyses and the Laboratory of Chemical Technology.
Currently the Department of Chemical and Aerosol Hazards
has 6 laboratories and employs 37 people, including 5 professors, 3 assistant professors, 11 research associates, 8 assistant lecturers, 4 engineering and technology employees and 6 technicians. They conduct research focused on the identification, assessment and elimination of chemical and aerosol hazards.
The Laboratory of Toxicology (headed by Jolanta Skowroń, Ph.D.) studies the properties of chemicals and their negative impact to the human body. This is carried out by assessing the toxicity of chemical substances or their mixtures which are used by or being introduced into industry. Until 2000 the Laboratory conducted research on animals; after that time, the assessment of toxicity of chemical substances has been conducted in vitro. Research into the simultaneous action of selected organic solvents and the toxicity of anthropogenic aerosols containing carcinogenic metals is currently being carried out. The in vitro research is done on various type of cell cultures (such as Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells and the A549 human lung cancer cells).
In the cooperation with the Institute of Biochemistry and Biophysics of the Polish Academy of Sciences the Laboratory studies the mechanisms of nickel allergy using the most modern proteomic and genomic analysis techniques. The Laboratory of Spectrophotometric Analysis (headed by Ewa Gawęda, Ph.D.) and the Laboratory of Chromatographic Analysis (headed by Małgorzata Szewczyńska, Ph.D.) carry out qualitative and quantitative assessment of chemicals at workplaces. The Laboratory of Spectrophotometric Analysis is primarily interested in non-organic chemical pollutants occurring in the working environment, mainly metals and their compounds, as well as other nonmetallic substances such as ozone, mineral acids, etc. The Laboratory of Chromatographic Analysis carry out analysis of organic chemicals in the working environment, including very harmful xenobiotics, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, nitrosamines and dioxins.
Quantitative assessment of metals and their compounds in the workplaces air is conducted with application of spectrophotometric techniques – especially atomic absorption spectrophotometry, both flame and flameless using a graphite tube, and absorption spectroscopy within the visible spectrum of light and within the ultraviolet spectrum. Qualitative analysis of organic chemicals is carried out with application of chromatographic techniques – both capillary gas chromatography with flame ionisation, electron captured and mass spectroscopy detection and high performance liquid chromatography with fluorescence and spectrophotometric detection. The laboratories develop new methods for determination of harmful chemical substances that provide the basis of draft Polish standards in the range of workplace air protection.
Research conducted in the last 10 years mainly concerns the assessment of occupational exposure in industrial processes, such as metallurgical and casting processes, incineration, metal product machining, plastics processing, metal and alloy product manufacturing, medicine, and furniture manufacturing. Expect for assessing the exposure to metals contained in total inhalable dust and to organic compounds occurring in vapours, such research is also carried out in five dimensional fractions of emitted particles, with ultrafine fraction containing particles of diameter less than 0.25 μm, incl. nano-particles .
The Laboratory of Chemical Technology (headed by Krzysztof M. Benczek, Ph.D.) works on the calibration of devices used to determine chemical contaminants in the air (mainly CO), production of calibration gas mixtures, development of methods for reducing plastic flammability. Another task is testing the efficiency of existing dermatological skin protection measures and development of new ones. The Laboratory is highly experienced in determining the emissions of harmful substance in technological processes and in performing analyses of process safety. It answers difficult questions regarding safety assessments of used on non-standard solutions.
The Laboratory of Filtration and Ventilation (headed by Elżbieta Jankowska, Ph.D., Eng.) deals with comprehen- sive research aimed at the identification and elimination of contamination in the form of solid and liquid particles in the working environment. The Laboratory has high experience and has specialist instruments allowing it to determine exposure to particles through studying their number concentration and size distribution, as well as mass concentration and particle surfaces in a wide range of particle dimensions – from nanoparticles to microparticles. It also conducts research into the fractional efficiency of material filtration and air filters used in general and local ventilation systems, and assesses the efficiency of general and local ventilation systems with respect to eliminating contamination and ensuring suitable indoor air quality in manufacturing facilities and offices (in order to prevent sick building syndrome - SBS). Another important direction with respect to the dissemination of contamination and fulfil environmental requirements is the mapping of air condition in workplaces. Since 2006, the Laboratory has been actively participating in research related to the assessment of exposure to nanoparticles. The research is conducted as part of European projects (NANOSH, NANODEVICE) and statutory research projects.
Research and expert opinions with respect to microbiology, conducted at the Laboratory of Toxicology since 2009, are being continued at the newly-established Laboratory of Biohazards (headed by Rafał L. Górny, Ph.D., D.Med.Sc.). Exposure to bioaerosols in the working environment, which constitutes a significant incriminating agent, still remains a much less recognised problem than exposure to other harmful agents, whether chemical or physical. It may now be possible to improve this situation, and the new laboratory has the opportunity to make a significant contribution. The Laboratory examines harmful biological agents in both occupational and non-industrial indoor environments, and works on the development of new and verification of existing hygienic standards for microbial hazards.
The Team for Major Chemical Accidents (headed by Professor Jerzy Michalik, Ph.D., Eng., D.Sc., Eng.) conducts research into the analysis and identification of emergency situations in Polish industry caused by hazardous substances, also during their transport.
In the last decade the range of research conducted by the Department of Chemical and Aerosol Hazards has been extended including directions associated with new emerging risks in the working environment. Work is being conducted on:
- the assessment of the simultaneous action of chemical substances and aerosols including nano-particles, applying in vitro methods;
- the measurement and assessment of occupational exposure to nanomaterials and nanoparticles emitted in technological processes;
- the assessment of exposure to microbiological agents;
- the analysis of toxic xenobiotics (dioxins, furans, multi-ring aromatic hydrocarbons);
- research into new plastics with reduced flammability;
- and research into skin protection measures.
The results of research and developing activities conducted by the Department in the last decade was among others the development of over 100 Polish standards of air purity protection regarding methods of chemical substances and aerosols in the working environment. Department’s activities include also expert opinions with respect to assessing exposure to harmful chemical and biological agents in the working and non-occupational environment, and assessing systems of air conditioning and ventilation.
Employees of the Department of Chemical and Aerosol Hazards are members of the following organisations:
- the EU Scientific Committee for Occupational Exposure Limits to Chemical Agents (SCOEL) (Jolanta Skowro ń, Ph.D.);
- the Interdepartmental Commission for Maximum Admissible Concentrations and Intensities for Agents Harmful to Health in the Working Environment (Commission secretary: Jolanta Skowroń, Ph.D., Commission members: Ewa Gawęda Ph.D., Małgorzata Pośniak Ph.D., and Elżbieta Jankowska, Ph.D., Eng. and Rafał L. Górny, Ph.D., D.Med.Sc.);
- Group of Experts for Chemical Agents of the Commission (Jolanta Skowroń Ph.D., Lidia Zapór Ph.D., Małgorzata Pośniak, Ph.D.)
- Group of Experts for Industrial Aerosols, (Elżbieta Jankowska, Ph.D., Eng.);
- Team of Experts in Biological Factors (Chair: Rafał L. Górny, Ph.D., D.Med.Sc, Vice-chair: Lidia Zapór, Ph.D., Secretary: Małgorzata Gołofit-Szymczak, M.Sc.);
- the EC Advisory Committee on Safety and Health at Work” – working party Health and Safety in the Hospital Sector (Rafał L. Górny, Ph.D., D.Med.Sc);
- Technical Committee no. 159 for Chemical and Aerosol Hazards in the Working Environment (Ewa Gawęda, Ph.D.);
- Committee for Standardisation no. 280 for Air Quality (Krzysztof Benczek, Ph.D.);
- Technical Committee no. 161 for Interior Air Quality (Elżbieta Jankowska, Ph.D., Eng.); Technical Committee no. 279 for Heat Engineering, Heating and Ventilation (Elżbieta Jankowska, Ph.D., Eng.);
- Technical Committee no. 308 for the Assessment of Hazardous Substance Release from Building Materials (Joanna Kowalska, M.Sc.);
- and the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists ACGIH (Jolanta Skowroń, Ph.D.).
Moreover, Department employees are experts in the working groups of the CEN and ISO Technical Committees – CEN/TC 195 (Elżbieta Jankowska, Ph.D., Eng.), CEN/TC 137 (Małgorzata Pośniak, Ph.D.), CEN/TC 114/WG15 and ISO/TC 146/SC2 (Krzysztof M. Benczek, Ph.D.).