Laboratory Products

Laboratory & Gold Room Air Quality: Extraction & Dust-Free Relief Air Systems

 

DMIRS inspected your facility and issued an improvement notice? Got a list of identified fume and dust hazards due to non-existent, inadequate or deteriorated extraction systems but no solutions? MARC Technologies has been involved in advanced extraction system design for many years. We have seen and solved (if given the opportunity) many hazardous fume and dust problems, but it is a worry that we see such high levels of complacency on many mine sites.  

It’s important to understand that laboratory and gold room environments are potentially the most hazardous (from a chemical perspective) on a mine site and so need well engineered & balanced extraction and air supply systems. But also do YOURSELF a favour and read all the MSDS sheets for all the chemicals in your work environment, research what fumes or dusts may be evolved when handling, ashing, heating samples, mixing chemicals or performing chemical reactions and ask yourself if you’re happy inhaling that. 

For example ashing a carbon sample – what fumes will the combustion process produce? Carbon dioxide maybe? Probably. But also possibly carbon monoxide. Possibly NOx and SOx gases from any nitrates and sulfates/sulfides, respectively, in the sample. What else? 

If you’ve stumbled across this page by accident, or found it trying to solve a fume or dust problem in your lab or gold room that you know exists, or if you’re planning on building a new lab or gold room, we beg you to ponder each comment below.  These comments are largely biased towards the elimination of harmful chemicals and dusts from the lungfuls of precious air we breath each second of our life because we all know someone who has been lost to cancer and we know the terrible suffering that disease brings – frustrated by the fact that we are often unable to identify the triggers. We do, however, know that breathing in fume or dust that is known (or suspected) to cause cancer or any other debilitating illness will probably reduce your chances of living a long and happy life.    

 

A few very important notes that show you there is a “bigger picture” that needs considering: 

  1. Fume cupboards and extraction systems in general need air to breathe: Their fans are usually more powerful than smaller extraction system fans like AAS and ICP-OES extraction fans/hoods, etc. In fact we see outside air being sucked into laboratories via these “extraction” hoods in more situations than you would expect – resulting in human (and expensive equipment) exposure to hazardous fume. A 2 kW fume cupboard fan will win in a fight against a 0.18 kW AAS or ICP extraction fan. 
  2. Air being pulled out of a lab or gold room via the many extraction systems will need to be replaced: It’s a law of physics – in that process dirt and dust will find its way in which results in contamination, dirty equipment and potential inhalation. What’s the point of having expensive analytical equipment when you’re probably analyzing your site’s dust that’s being sucked into your building?
  3. If allowed to accumulate, the air or dusts in a typical mine site lab or gold room can be extremely hazardous: Fresh air introduction is crucial and – for laboratories – is also stipulated in the Australian laboratory design standard AS/NZS 2982! 
  4. There are ways of reducing the amount of air extracted from your lab or gold room: You can reduce the amount of air extracted from your building by as much as 70% by using a few techniques, engineered extraction hoods, etc.  
  5. There are cost-effective ways of filtering the air that is supplied to your lab or gold room: MARC can help you feed clean filtered air into your building in a variety of ways to suit your budget.  We can positively pressurize your lab with self-cleaning filtered air supply systems where you will not have to clean any filters for between 2 and 5 years…maybe more!  Obviously this statement is dependent on site specific conditions.
  6. Not all extraction hoods supplied by equipment OEM’s work effectively: Often the gold room or laboratory equipment suppliers are not experts in ventilation, unfortunately, and although their extraction systems may appear functional they are often not fit for purpose. The OEM’s should step back and let the specialists handle the fume – but more often than not they want the additional sales or the client finds it easier to simply buy everything at the same time.   
  7. Blowing vast quantities of clean air into a laboratory or gold room will not mitigate the chemical fume risks:  In most situations these fast moving plumes of air will negatively impact the effectiveness of hoods – pulling fume out of the hoods and into the faces of operators is a typical side effect.  
  8. Address the fume source rather than rely on general room ventilation: Doing this reduces the likelihood of dead spots where hazardous fume can accumulate, and prevents fume from wafting past an operator as it moves to the extraction point.   
  9. Just because you don’t smell it it doesn’t mean its not there: The list of harmful chemicals that do not have an odour is long and very likely to be in your work area.     
  10. The engineering of hazardous process extraction systems is not a single skill:  It combines chemical hazard knowledge, standards knowledge, knowing what suitable extraction equipment is available and/or what can be manufactured as well as best-practice knowledge. 
  11. In Gold Rooms don’t use direct evaporative cooling if you regularly hose down your floor: The water on your floor will not evaporate – resulting in an internal climate similar to an Amazonian Rain Forest. 
  12. You WILL need to perform HVAC engineering on the Lab or Gold Room:  It is for human occupation and it is a work area. No reputable Mechanical Services contractor will touch your building without solid performance metrics to guide them. 
  13. The Air in Laboratories cannot be recirculated:  You will remove the fume from one area and reintroduce it onto a poor unsuspecting technician in another part of the lab. 
  14. Wall mounted Split Air Conditioners DO NOT introduce fresh air into a lab:  It is amazing how many times we have come across people saying they get fresh air in the lab from the wall mounted A/C.  They do admittedly do a good job of creating the false impression that they supply fresh air because the air they blow towards you has had much of the humidity and stale smell taken out of it. But they certainly do not pump in fresh air to feed extraction systems. 

 

Some Proven Group 1 Carcinogens (proven to cause cancer) known to exist on mine sites and/or in Mine Site Laboratories and Gold Rooms:

  • Arsenic Compounds – Found in some Gold Rooms (ores).
  • Respirable Asbestos Dust – Found in some ore bodies in Western Australia.
  • Respirable Silica Dust – Found in some ore bodies in Western Australia.
  • Strong Inorganic Acid Mists – Gold Rooms and Mineral Laboratories. Although it should be noted that the majority of studies point to sulfuric acid being the culprit in mixed acid mists. 
  • Alcohol – Wet Mess (it’s the breakdown product of alcohol – acetaldehyde – in the human body that causes cancer and not the alcohol itself).
  • Diesel Exhaust Fumes – Generators and Vehicles.

 

Some Group 2A Carcinogens (Probably will cause cancer) known to exist in Mine Site Laboratories and Gold Rooms:

  • Lead Compounds – Fire Assay Laboratories, Some Ores. 

 

For the scrubbing of hazardous components from medium to large air volumes please see our page on deep bed scrubbers

 

This is our specialty area – Contact us to discuss your needs.