Detecting VOCs in Laboratories

As the world responds to the severe and potentially catastrophic consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak. The industry is responding in many ways to support the Government’s efforts to respond to a rapidly spreading pandemic.

Over the past few days and weeks, we have seen social distancing measures imposed, schools closed and countries placed into complete lockdown as the virus continues to spread. As the world tries to carry on as best it can under the circumstances industry is redeploying its resources to assist in the fight against the pandemic.

In addition to this and with stocks of hand sanitiser at dangerously low levels, distillers across the globe have been re-deploying their equipment away from potable/consumer alcohol to the high grade alcohol which is used in hand sanitiser production .

Spirit producers such as Brewdog, Absolut and many small Gin distilleries in addition to luxury perfume labels such as Givenchy and Christian Dior are all turning their attentions to how they can help keep on top of the production of the precious liquid that we have all come to rely on over the last few weeks.

With the increase in demand for hand sanitiser and other disinfecting products, it is vital that both ethanol and isopropyl alcohol concentrations are properly monitored throughout laboratories to ensure the safety of the workers who are producing these products. Although typically non-toxic and quick evaporating, overexposure to isopropyl alcohol can cause a variety of health concerns, whether by direct skin contact or inhalation, including dizziness, nausea, and skin irritation.

There are many tools available for the detection of  VOCs including ethanol and isopropyl alcohol. A commonly used, proven method that rapidly detects a wide range of VOC over the concentrations of interest is photoionisation detection (PID). The ability of PID to measure low levels of any VOC makes it a vital tool in any laboratory or clean-room. A PID detector is sensitive enough to detect parts per billion (ppb) levels of VOCs that can be toxic but are not able to be removed using standard high-efficiency particulate (HEPA) filtration methods.

In the case of cleanroom laboratories where these disinfecting products are being produced, it has been found that a portable or handheld PID instrument is effective. The non-discriminatory technology and ability to measure across a broad range of levels offered by the Tiger handheld VOC detector from ION Science is proven to be an extremely effective all-round device in a laboratory environment. It is robust, reliable and easy to operate, providing assurance to those working in this environment that procedures are being performed in conditions of the highest standard and safety.

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