Choosing Sampling Media

How do you know which type of media to use in your industrial hygiene assessment?

It can seem difficult to find a starting point when it comes to determining how to conduct an industrial hygiene exposure assessment. With many cassettes and tubes looking the same, it can be easy to mistakenly use the wrong sample media.  So where do you start?

Regulatory-Approved Methodology

Most regional occupational health and safety regulations will mandate that an exposure assessment is performed in accordance with specific methodology, typically Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), or similar methods.

For example, the NIOSH method 7500 outlines the sampling and analysis procedures for evaluating crystalline silica. Of interest in this respect is the ‘Sampling’ section on the first page, which outlines the sampler required – in this case, a filter and cyclone. The aluminum cyclone and 5 micrometer polyvinyl chloride (PVC) cassette is the most commonly used sampling train used.

Similarly, the OSHA method ID-125g outlines the procedure for sampling for metals. While the method has a different structure and format than NIOSH or the EPA, the sampling media is still easily found in section 5.1 of the method – 0.8 micrometer mixed cellulose ester (MCE) filters.

The Analytical Laboratory

Your preferred analytical laboratory is often a good resource in determining the sampling media needed for an assessment. Many laboratories will also provide a written sampling guide to provide assistance in quickly getting the specifics for sampling a given contaminant. Have a look at the SGS-Galson sampling guide for an example.

Industry Associations and LinkedIn Groups

While they’re often an under-utilized resource, fellow professionals in your local industry association can often be tapped for advice. Similarly, many tech-comfortable industrial hygienists will maintain a presence on LinkedIn, oftentimes in various discussion groups. Others can provide their experience and advice for a range of topics that you may not have encountered, particularly for contaminants and scenarios that are rare or not commonly found.


The appropriate sampling methods and media can be easily found by referring to established sampling methodology, consulting service providers at analytical laboratories, and by connecting with industry peers to share experience.

January 11, 2018

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