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Comparison of soil sampling and analytical methods for asbestos at the Sumas Mountain Asbestos Site—Working towards a toolbox for better assessment
Wroble, J., T. Frederick, Alicia Frame, AND D. Vallero. Comparison of soil sampling and analytical methods for asbestos at the Sumas Mountain Asbestos Site—Working towards a toolbox for better assessment. PLoS ONE . Public Library of Science, San Francisco, CA, 12(7):e0180210, (2017).
Naturally occurring asbestos (NOA) is a widespread, potential source of exposure. Current methods are deficient in determining air and soil concentrations of fibers and other respirable elongated mineral fibers. This project applies new techniques for sampling and analysis to soil and air in the Sumas Mountain region of Washington state, known to contain NOA.
Established soil sampling methods for asbestos are inadequate to support risk assessment and risk-based decision making at Superfund sites due to difficulties in detecting asbestos at low concentrations and difficulty in extrapolating soil concentrations to air concentrations. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Office of Land and Emergency Management (OLEM) currently recommends the rigorous process of Activity Based Sampling (ABS) to characterize site exposures. The purpose of this study was to compare three soil analytical methods and two soil sampling methods to determine whether one method, or combination of methods, would yield more reliable soil asbestos data than other methods. Samples were collected using both traditional discrete (“grab”) samples and incremental sampling methodology (ISM). Analyses were conducted using polarized light microscopy (PLM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM) methods or a combination of these two methods. Data show that the fluidized bed asbestos segregator (FBAS) followed by TEM analysis could detect asbestos at locations that were not detected using other analytical methods; however, this method exhibited high relative standard deviations, indicating the results may be more variable than other soil asbestos methods. The comparison of samples collected using ISM versus discrete techniques for asbestos resulted in no clear conclusions regarding preferred sampling method. However, analytical results for metals clearly showed that measured concentrations in ISM samples were less variable than discrete samples.