MS and MPH students in the Industrial Hygiene program must complete a Culminating Experience that most often takes the form of a small research project. PhD students conduct larger research projects that produce a dissertation and manuscripts that are submitted for publication to technical journals. Students may conduct research that is laboratory-based or field-based, or some combination of the two.
The Industrial Hygiene Laboratory occupies 2,500 square feet and is equipped with the latest instrumentation for measuring gases, vapors, particulate matter, and biological aerosols. Large research apparatuses housed in the laboratory include a new walk-in exposure chamber, a wind tunnel, a filter tester, three laboratory hoods, and a biological safety cabinet. The Industrial Hygiene program owns a wide variety of portable samplers and instruments that can be used to measure exposures to hazards at work sites.
Examples of recent research projects include:
- Nanoparticle Releases During Vehicle Recycling: Workers involved in recycling automobile components may receive harmful exposures to airborne nanoparticles emitted from the nanocomposite parts as they are shredded for recycling. MPH student Jessica Ingraham and Dr. Raynor evaluated particles generated as a granulator shredded nanocomposite test plaques. Performed in conjunction with Argonne National Laboratory and the US Council for Automotive Research, the study suggested that recycling of nanoclay-reinforced plastics is unlikely to generate more airborne nanoparticles than recycling of conventional plastics.
- Evaluating Measures to Reduce Exposure to Mouse Urine Protein:MS students Joe Hexum and Ning Lee and MPH student Rebecca Burton worked with Drs. Ramachandran and Raynor on projects to understand how to control exposures to airborne mouse urine protein (MUP) among workers who transfer research mice between cages and dump bedding from dirty cages. Exposures to MUP can lead to severe allergic reactions. This work indicated that biosafety cabinets and clean benches are not sufficiently protective for workers during cage changing, and respiratory protection should be required for animal care staff even while using biosafety cabinets.
- Exposure Assessment in the Taconite Industry: PhD students Jooyeon Hwang and Tran Huynh and Drs. Ramachandran and Raynor measured worker exposures to elongated mineral particles (EMPs), respirable dust, and silica in six taconite mines in northern Minnesota. The results are being used for an epidemiological study of mesothelioma, lung cancer, and silicosis in taconite workers.
- Comparison of Emissions between Self-Generated Vacuum and Conventional Sanding Systems:MPH student David Liverseed and Dr. Raynor conducted research at 3M Company to understand the differences in particle emissions between a conventional random orbital sanding system and a self-generated vacuum random orbital sanding system with an attached particle filtration bag. Particle concentrations were measured for each system in a controlled test chamber. Depending on the substrate being sanded, concentrations were between 300 and almost 5000 times greater for the conventional system than the vacuum sanding system.
- Assessing Inhalation Exposures of Clean-up Workers During the BP Oil Spill: PhD student Tran Huynh and Dr. Ramachandran developed new statistical methods to analyze the inhalation exposures to several volatile organic chemicals including total hydrocarbons (THCs) and BTEX chemicals (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene) among oil spill clean-up workers. The results are being used in an epidemiological study being conducted by federal government researchers. The methods are also useful for analyzing data below limits of detection.