FTIR Analysis Detects Dangerous Vapors

FTIR Analysis Detects Dangerous Vapors in Cargo ContainersFourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) analysis is being employed to dramatically improve the speed and effectiveness with which freight containers are being inspected for dangerous gasses. Every year, millions of these freight containers arrive in international ports; about 20% of these containers possess hazardous levels of vapors and gases.

Utilizing FTIR analysis, a Dutch firm of health and safety consultants, Reaktie, is drastically improving the speed and effectiveness with which these containers are assessed, since FTIR analysis facilitates the simultaneous measurement of the 50 gases that are of most concern.

FTIR Analysis Detects Fumigants and Chemicals

Two potential sources of hazardous chemicals inside cargo containers are the fumigants and chemicals that are used to treat the goods and/or packing materials. Fumigants are applied to goods to control pests and micro-organisms. Foodstuffs, leather goods, handicrafts, textiles, timber or cane furniture, luxury vehicles and cargo in timber cases or on timber pallets from Asia have most likely been fumigated.

Peter Broersma from Reakti, who has over 20 years of experience testing gases in containers, says “While the fumigants are highly toxic, the number of containers exceeding occupational exposure limits (OEL) due to other chemicals is much greater and the number of ‘failed’ containers is likely to rise as more containers are tested, detection methods improve and new gases are identified.”

FTIR Analysis: Fast and Accurate

Being one of the first to utilize portable FTIR analysis in the assessment of containers, Broersma said, “The problems with hazardous gases in cargo containers is now widely publicized and the requirement for testing is growing as employers fulfill their responsibility to protect the health and welfare of employees. However, the traditional testing methods are laborious, time-consuming and risk failing to find a potentially harmful gas.”

Broersma adds that “FTIR has long been established as an accurate technology for the simultaneous measurement of gaseous emissions from industrial processes.”

Conventional Methods are Slow

Conventional monitoring techniques either utilize a wide range of instruments, chemical stain tubes to test for the most common gases, or a combination of both methods.

The problem with using chemical stain tubes is that once the results are attained, the tube itself becomes hazardous waste and must be safely disposed of. The high number of tubes that must be used in order to demonstrate that a container is safe can also be prohibitively expensive and time-consuming.

On the other hand, deploying multiple instruments presents practical problems because each instrument requires maintenance and re-calibration in addition to regular re-charging. Another problem with electrochemical sensors is their inability to cope with high concentrations of gas. High levels of gas can poison the cell, a problem that usually results in instrument failure. However, high concentrations of gas are not harmful in FTIR analysis.

FTIR analysis produces a high level of accuracy with a low level of maintenance while permitting the simultaneous analysis of a large number of target compounds, which improves the effectiveness of the assessment and reduces the risk to staff.

Learn more about FTIR Analysis (Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy) by contacting Innovatech Labs online or by calling one of our highly trained analysts at 888-740-LABS (5227).

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