Industrial hygienists ensure safe work environments by identifying and mitigating potential health hazards that could affect the well-being of employees. Employees that work in an environment that requires unavoidable chemical exposure should be aware of the levels at which they are being exposed. For example, workers in medical and laboratory settings may be exposed to toxic gases used for disinfecting surfaces including, chlorine, acetic acid, and formaldehyde. Employees must handle and transfer chemicals constantly, which can enter the body through the nose, mouth, or skin. In some cases, an employee will experience symptoms because of the exposure. In most situations the symptoms may only develop over time, with chronic exposure. It is critical that the employer recognizes this danger and implement tools for monitoring chemical exposure in workers. Therefore, industrial hygiene techniques are crucial to ensure the safety of all employees.
Liquid Crystals Surfaces for Detecting Toxic Chemicals
Platypus Technologies has developed a new technology for sensing and monitoring toxic gases in the workplace. This technology consists of thin films of liquid crystals supported chemically reactive surfaces. The chemically reactive surface binds the molecules of a target gas, causing a change in the orientation of the liquid crystal molecules. This molecular event translates into a dramatic optical change in the film of liquid crystal. This method of detection is fast, low-cost, and highly sensitive, allowing detection of ppm-level concentrations of toxic gases.
Tools for Industrial Hygienists
Using the liquid crystal technology, Platypus Technologies has developed tools for sampling and monitoring toxic gases in the workplace. The products are sold under the brand Nematic Technologies.
The Platypus Dosimeter is a passive (diffusive) sampling badge for monitoring exposure to toxic gases. This badge can be used for personal monitoring or for area monitoring. Following sampling, the Dosimeter can be analyzed immediately using the Dosimeter Reader to obtain high-accuracy data for time-weighted average (TWA) concentration of toxic gases. No need to file forms or wait for results from the laboratory. The Dosimeter Reader connects to any personal computer, allowing the user to save and analyze data at their convenience. The current Dosimeter product is selective to hydrogen sulfide (H2S). The team at Platypus Technologies is developing additional dosimeters for selective detection of other toxic gases, including formaldehyde and peracetic acid.
The BadgAIR is a compact device with wireless capabilities to allow users to identify hazardous gases from a safe distance. The detector can be used as a stand-alone module as part of a sensor network, or it can be mounted on any capable aerial or land drone for remote detection of toxic gases. Application in remote chemical detection include law enforcement, industrial hygiene (enclosed spaces), environmental monitoring, and military applications.
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