Hard metal exposures. Part 1: Observed performance of three local exhaust ventilation systems

Appl Occup Environ Hyg. 2000 Apr;15(4):331-41. doi: 10.1080/104732200301458.


Not every ventilation system performs as intended; much can be learned when they do not. The purpose of this study was to compare observed initial performance to expected levels for three saw-reconditioning shop ventilation systems and to characterize the changes in performance of the systems over a one-year period. These three local exhaust ventilation systems were intended to control worker exposures to cobalt, cadmium, and chromium during wet grinding, dry grinding, and welding/brazing activities. Prior to installation the authors provided some design guidance based on Industrial Ventilation, a Manual of Recommended Practice. However, the authors had limited influence on the actual installation and operation and no line authority for the systems. In apparent efforts to cut costs and to respond to other perceived needs, the installed systems deviated from the specifications used in pressure calculations in many important aspects, including adding branch ducts, use of flexible ducts, the choice of fans, and the construction of some hoods. After installation of the three systems, ventilation measurements were taken to determine if the systems met design specifications, and worker exposures were measured to determine effectiveness. The results of the latter will be published as a companion article. The deviations from design and maintenance failures may have adversely affected performance. From the beginning to the end of the study period the distribution of air flow never matched the design specifications for the systems. The observed air flows measured within the first month of installation did not match the predicated design air flows for any of the systems, probably because of the differences between the design and the installed system. Over the first year of operation, hood air flow variability was high due to inadequate cleaning of the sticky process materials which rapidly accumulated in the branch ducts. Poor distribution of air flows among branch ducts frequently produced individual hood air flows that were far below specified design levels even when the total air flow through that system was more than adequate. To experienced practitioners, it is not surprising that deviations from design recommendations and poor maintenance would be associated with poor system performance. Although commonplace, such experiences have not been documented in peer-reviewed publications to date. This publication is a first step in providing that documentation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution, Indoor / analysis
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / prevention & control*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Equipment Design
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Hazardous Substances / adverse effects
  • Hazardous Substances / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Metallurgy*
  • Metals / adverse effects
  • Metals / analysis*
  • Occupational Exposure / prevention & control*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Ventilation / instrumentation*
  • Ventilation / methods
  • Washington


  • Hazardous Substances
  • Metals