OccHyg Research - Midwest Center for Occupational Health and Safety Education and Research Center

OccHyg Research

MS students in the Occupational Hygiene program must complete 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.


ih-lab-studentThe Occupational Hygiene Laboratory, shared by the OccHyg core faculty, occupies 2,500 sq. ft. and is equipped with the latest instrumentation for measurement of gases, vapors, particulate matter, biological aerosols, noise, radiation, and hazardous materials. The lab consists of a large room occupied by a walk-in exposure chamber, a wind tunnel, a filter tester, and a biological safety cabinet; a smaller room with benches and two laboratory hoods; a wet-chemistry laboratory with work benches and another lab hood; and several smaller work, storage, and office spaces. For aerosol research and measurements, the OccHyg Lab has condensation particle counters for measuring nanoparticle concentrations, nephelometers for measuring aerosol mass concentrations, diffusion chargers capable of measuring surface area concentrations, instruments for measuring particle size distributions, samplers for collecting biological aerosols, and numerous gravimetric samplers and cascade impactors. To analyze filter samples, microbalances and microscopes are present. The OccHyg Lab also owns equipment for gas and vapor sampling, including direct reading instruments for measuring ammonia and hydrogen sulfide concentrations and concentrations of organic vapors. The lab also has typical occupational hygiene devices such as flow calibrators, sampling and vacuum pumps, Dräger pumps and tubes, noise dosimeters, velometers, manometers, pressure gauges, pitot tubes, and centrifugal fans. Equipment is available for generating different kinds of gases, vapors, and aerosols for experiments.


ESSIThe Exposure Science and Sustainability Institute (ESSI) in the University of Minnesota Division of Environmental Health Sciences was founded in 2015 by Dr. Susan Arnold and Dr. Gurumurthy Ramachandran to provide excellence in exposure science and sustainability research and training, responding to industry identified needs.
Through ESSI, faculty and students conduct applied research to help industry answer practical questions. They generate the data to support data-driven exposure and risk management decision making, facilitating world-class product stewardship, and conduct training to ensure practicing IH and EHS professionals have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed. Through the use of the state-of-the-art full-size exposure chamber and instruments, they can measure a broad range of chemical agents and exposure scenarios for companies and industry groups, and they also conduct field surveys and assessments, providing companies and communities with exposure assessment information and health risks.


Factors Influence Transmission of Airborne Viruses (FITrAV)

The long-range goal of FITrAV is to reduce the risk of transmission of infectious airborne viruses among people, particularly those at work. To reduce risk, we must first identify the factors that influence risk. Little research has been conducted to measure the concentrations, sizes, and infectivity of particles to which people are exposed at work and in public spaces. Using an array of samplers and multiplex analyses for genetic material, the FITrAV team is collecting and analyzing air and surface samples from workplaces and public spaces to identify human respiratory viruses. The team is also assessing factors that may influence exposure in workplaces and public spaces such as temperature, relative humidity, room dimensions, occupant density, occupant activities, and ventilation parameters. Samples have so far been collected in a music classroom, medical clinic, dental clinic, hockey arena, and basketball arena. Viruses identified include SARS-CoV-2, two other coronaviruses, human metapneumovirus, rhinovirus/enterovirus, adenovirus, and bocavirus. There was a greater prevalence of viral RNA in surface samples than air samples. Occupational Hygiene PhD students Majid Bagheri Hosseinabadi, Puleng Moshele, and Adepeju Adesina work on this project with faculty members Dr. Pete Raynor and Dr. Susan Arnold along with faculty, students, and staff from the College of Veterinary Medicine and the Department of Mechanical Engineering. This project is funded by a gift from Dale and Helen Lundgren.

Characterizing Emissions Generated by 3D Printing Operations

Additive manufacturing (AM) constitutes a rapidly emerging technology. No longer confined to the design industry, these technologies are seen with exponentially increasing frequency in research and development, manufacturing, medicine, education, and even home use. However, the occupational exposures and risks associated with this technology have not been thoroughly characterized, making appropriate risk management very challenging. Existing research has focused upon fused deposition modeling, but much of the most innovative and promising research being done in this field makes greater use of other AM methods. This study aims to characterize airborne emissions during tasks associated with binder jetting and vat photopolymerization and use the exposure determinant data generated with predictive models to recommend ideal engineering controls for this technology. PhD student Rebecca Burton, under the supervision of Associate Professor Susan Arnold, is studying exposures in a field laboratory environment, using real-time detection and integrated methods for detecting and quantifying potentially sensitizing metals, aerosols from nanometer range to 20 μm, acrylate monomers, and volatile organics. This data will enable us to better understand employee exposures during the various tasks of AM processes and lead to optimal controls for their management. The project has been funded in part by a grant from the MCOHS Pilot Project Research Training Program.

Evaluating a Pandemic’s Impact on Gig-Workers: How Is Health and Well-Being Affected by COVID-19?

This project seeks to identify health and safety perceptions among gig-workers, and determine the impact COVID-19 has had on gig-workers’ well-being. The focus of the research is rideshare and delivery drivers like those working for Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash. PhD student El’gin Avila, under the supervision of Professor Pete Raynor, has conducted semi-structured interviews to obtain qualitative assessments of workers’ health and safety perceptions and administered a questionnaire to obtain semi-quantitative assessments of their risk factors. An intervention in the form of a phone app will be developed to provide health and safety-related information to these workers tailored to their needs. The efficacy of this communication tool will be assessed by surveying a small group of workers. The project has been funded by a grant from the MCOHS Pilot Project Research Training Program.

Optimizing Assessment of Virus-Containing Particles in Animal Agriculture

Those working in animal agriculture are at risk of airborne exposure to infectious viruses, such as zoonotic influenza viruses. To assess exposures to viral aerosols and manage them effectively, we must know the concentrations and sizes of particles with which infectious airborne viruses are associated. The objectives of this research are to develop a high-volume, field-portable, size-differentiating viral aerosol sampler and to use it to measure worker exposures to live airborne influenza viruses in animal agriculture facilities. PhD student Adepeju Adesina has worked with Professor Pete Raynor and colleagues at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine and Department of Mechanical Engineering to evaluate existing samplers and use these results to design and fabricate a new prototype sampler to assess airborne viruses. Ms. Adesina is currently measuring the performance of the prototype sampler to compare against design specifications. This research has been supported primarily by the NIOSH-funded Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health (UMASH) Center.

Interdisciplinary Training, Education and Research Activities for Assessing and Controlling Contaminants from Emerging Technologies (InTERACCT)

Emerging technologies such as additive manufacturing, nanotechnology, and novel drug delivery can revolutionize how we make products, care for health, and accomplish work. However, they may also expose workers to hazardous materials involved in or produced by their use. InTERACCT will train occupational health and safety professionals to protect the health and safety of those working with these new technologies. Associate Professor Susan Arnold leads InTERACCT with contributions from Occupational Hygiene PhD students Rebecca Burton and Puleng Moshele, PhD students from other disciplines, Associate Professor Tran Huynh Professor Pete Raynor, and colleagues at the University of Iowa and UCLA. The project team is developing a comprehensive web-based curriculum focusing on worker health and safety in emerging technologies and providing research-based training for graduate students. The web courses will be designed for training, continuing education, and outreach, and targeted toward industrial hygienists and other environmental and occupational health professionals. InTERACCT is funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.