May 11, 2023

ASTM to Consider Standards for Air Sampling of Emergency Incidents

ASTM International has formed a task group that will consider creating standards for air sampling of incidents such as the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, that occurred in February. The derailed Norfolk Southern train was carrying hazardous materials, including vinyl chloride, benzene, and isobutylene. A fire led to rising temperatures inside one of the cars, which prompted responders to initiate a controlled venting and burning of more than 115,500 gallons of vinyl chloride. Air sampling conducted by EPA did not detect any levels of concern, but residents, media, and other observers raised questions about the agency’s sampling methods and equipment.

According to Kenn White, a member of the AIHA Standards Advisory Panel and AIHA’s representative to ASTM Committee D22 on Air Quality, a task group on major incident air testing is forming and will include members of ASTM D22 and other experts. The task group, which does not yet have an official name, will define air sampling considerations and develop new ASTM guides and methods that could be used in a scenario such as the East Palestine derailment. ASTM currently has a method for vinyl chloride—ASTM D4766—but it is intended for use in workplace environments.

“As with the creation of all ASTM consensus standards, participation by non-ASTM-member experts is welcomed and solicited,” White said. “AIHA should be a good source.”

AIHA member Michael Brisson was named interim chair of the new task group, which will report to subcommittee D22.01 on Quality Control and will include volunteers from D22 subcommittees on ambient atmospheres and source emissions, workplace air quality, and indoor air.