Essential Employees Exposures


Disinfectants in the Workplace - Essential Employees Exposures

Air sampling information regarding cleaning agents, disinfectants, and sanitizers


The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, a global pandemic on March 12, 2020, therefore changing our lives in the process. Around the world, different mitigation strategies have been employed to slow the spread and decrease the risk of exposure to the virus at federal, regional and state government levels. Essential employees are designated as those who perform critical operations in Healthcare/Public Health and Infrastructure fields such as those identified as First Responders; Law Enforcement; Food & Agriculture; Energy; Water and Wastewater; Transportation; Public Works; Critical Manufacturing, etc.
Please consult your local authority for more information.

These essential employees work under stressful conditions and use chemical disinfectants, sanitizing agents, and waste treatments more frequently in order to keep the surfaces clean and protect themselves and others from exposure to the virus. Applying these cleaning agents to the various surfaces may release harmful vapors and fumes and expose the employee to an inhalation risk of hazardous chemicals. While workers wear personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect themselves from an exposure to the virus, it may not be suitable and effective in preventing an inhalation exposure from these chemical cleaning agents. The common cleaning and sanitizing agents used are listed below:


Cleaning Agent Types Symptoms of Exposure Exposure Limits Agency Method /
Sampling Media
Sodium Hypochlorite (Bleach) Blurred vision & watery eyes; burning sensation mucous membranes; shortness of breath; chest tightness, coughing; nausea & vomiting; fluid in lungs AGCIH: 1 ppm (chlorine) TLV-STEL
OSHA: 0.5 ppm (chlorine) TWA
Midget Impinger 64712-U
Reagent Sulfamic Acid
Filters PTFE
Hydrogen Peroxide (vapors, mists, aerosols) Upper airway irritation; inflammation of the nose; hoarseness, shortness of breath; sensation of burning or tightness in the chest; exposure to high concentrations can result in severe mucosal congestion of the trachea and bronchi and delayed accumulation of fluid in the lungs OSHA: 1 ppm TLV-TWA OSHA 1019 (mod 37 mm)
Filter Cassette 37 mm
Filter Quartz Fiber >> Need a non-sharpoint link
Reagent Titanium (IV) oxysulfate *Filters not pre-coated; cassettes not pre-loaded
Peroxyacetic Acid (PAA) Corrosive to eyes; skin and lungs ACGIH: 0.4 ppm (1.24 mg/m3) TLV-STEL OSHA 1019 (mod 37 mm)
Filter Cassette 37 mm
Filter Quartz Fiber >> Need a non-sharpoint link
Reagent Titanium (IV) oxysulfate *Filters not pre-coated; cassettes not pre-loaded
Phenolic Compounds Irritation of respiratory tract; damage to vital organs - heart, kidneys; liver and lungs OSHA: 5 ppm TWA OSHA 32
Sorbent Tube ORBO-615
Or Passive by TD RAD147
Organic Acids (Acetic Acid, etc) Irritation of mucous membranes and skin OSHA: 10 ppm (acetic acid) PEL-TWA NIOSH 1603 (Acetic Acid)
OSHA PV2119 (Acetic Acid
Sorbent Tube ORBO-32S
Passive by IC RAD166
Alcohols (isopropyl, denatured) Irritation; may cause dizziness   NIOSH 1400
Sorbent Tube ORBO-32S
Or Passive by SD RAD130
Aldehydes (Formaldehyde, Glutaraldehyde) Irritation of mucous membranes and respiratory tract; Eye & skin burns; Formaldehyde is classified as a carcinogen See table NIOSH 2016
LpDNPH Sampling Cartridges
Or Passive using RAD165 or DSD-DNPH (28221-U)
Quaternary Ammonia (QAC) – Common in some anti-bacterial/microbial sanitizers Irritate skin, cause rashes; burn eyes; forms chlorine gas in the presence of bleach (DO NOT Mix) NIOSH: 50 ppm (as ammonia) ACGIH: 25 ppm; STEL 35 ppm NIOSH 6015
Sorbent Tube ORBO-554

If you need an Air Sampling Pump for personal sampling, please view our selection here.

Related information
Radiello for Acetic and Formic Acid Measurements in Museum Environment (RAD166)
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) Chemically Desorbed with CS2 (RAD130)

More Information on Select Commonly used Cleaning agents, Disinfectants, and Sanitizers


Aldehydes and their health effects



Glutaraldehyde is a toxic chemical that is used as a cold sterilant to disinfect and clean heat-sensitive medical, surgical and dental equipments. It is used in a limited number of applications, rather than as a general disinfectant. Specific applications of glutaraldehyde include its use as a disinfecting agent for respiratory therapy equipments, bronchoscopes, physical therapy whirlpool tubs, surgical instruments, anesthesia equipment parts, X-ray tabletops, dialyzers, and dialysis treatment equipment.

Short-term exposure of glutaraldehyde has been known to burn irritate the mucous membranes and skin. Inhaling it can irritate the nose, throat and respiratory system resulting in coughing and wheezing. It may also cause nausea, drowsiness, dizziness and nosebleeds. Long-term effects of glutaraldehyde result from its use as a desensitizer. Those who are desensitized, show strong reactions even with a little exposure to the compound. Common responses against glutaraldehyde are asthma attacks, trouble in breathing and also skin allergies and eczema, itching and rashes. It is one of the leading causes of workplace asthma.


Formaldehyde is a common indoor air pollutant that is colorless with a strong and unique odor. It is present in medical preservatives, as a component of surgical smoke, adhesives, particleboard, paints, coatings, paper, foam, etc. Workers can inhale formaldehyde in the gaseous form or adsorb it in the liquid form through the skin. Exposure to formaldehyde may result in irritation or burning of eyes, stuffy nose and skin rashes. It is also known to cause headaches and flu-like symptoms. Chronic exposure may also result in bronchitis. It can also trigger other ailments like asthma and behave as an allergen.

It is one of the only VOC’s regulated by the EPA. However, OSHA regulates it as a known carcinogen. Formaldehyde is also a concern in other industries such as human and animal healthcare, laboratory settings, construction sites, pulp and paper, automotive, maritime, and so on. It is also a common contaminant investigated in Vapor Intrusion, Sick Building, and other Building related illnesses.


Acetaldehyde is a volatile, flammable and colorless liquid with a pungent, fruity odor commonly used in disinfectants. It is widely used as a chemical intermediate, principally to produce acetic acid, pyridine and pyridine bases, peracetic acid, pentaerythritol, butylene glycol, and chloral. It is used in the production of esters, particularly ethyl acetate and isobutyl acetate. It is also used in the manufacturing of dyes and aniline rubber, as a flavorant, component of paints, adhesives, coatings, etc. It is dangerous when exposed to heat or flame and can react vigorously with an oxidizing material, acid anhydrides, alcohols, ketones, phenols, halogens, isocyanates, and strong alkalides and amines. It is also incompatible with acids, bases, alcohol, ammonia, amines, phenols, ketones, and hydrogen cyanide. It polymerizes readily in the presence of trace metals (iron). Acetaldehyde can form unstable or explosive peroxides on exposure to air. It may polymerize in the presence of air, heat, acids, or bases with a potential of fire or explosion. Acetaldehyde has been found to decompose rubber products but is non-corrosive to most of the metals.

Workers in a wide range of industries from healthcare to paints and coatings can be exposed to acetaldehyde inhaling its fumes. When ingested or inhaled, acetaldehyde can irritate the eye, nose, and throat; cause conjunctivitis, coughing, central nervous system depression, eye and skin burns, dermatitis, and delayed pulmonary edema.

Acetaldehyde is a by-product of yeast production and is a naturally occurring compound in wine, bread, soy sauce and other yeast fermented products. It is approved for use in phenolic resins of molded containers for contact with the nonacidic foods. It is exempted from residue tolerance when it is used as a fumigant for storage of apples and strawberries.


Exposure Limits
Exposure Limit
ACGIH (TLV) 0.05 ppm Ceiling
NIOSH (REL) 0.2 ppm TWA
OSHA (PEL) for General Industry: 0.75 ppm; 2 ppm STEL
for Construction Industry: 0.75 ppm; 2 ppm STEL
for Maritime: 0.75 ppm; 2 ppm STEL
ACGIH (TLV) 0.30 ppm, 37 mg/m³ TWA
NIOSH (REL) 0.016 TWA; 0.1 ppm Ceiling (15 minutes)
NIOSH (IDHL) 20 ppm
OSHA (PEL) for General Industry: 200 ppm; 360 mg/m³ TWA
for Construction Industry: 200 ppm; 360 mg/m³ TWA
for Maritime: 200 ppm; 360 mg/m³ TWA
ACGIH (TLV) 25 ppm, 45 mg/m3 Ceiling; Appendix A3 - Confirmed Animal Carcinogen with Unknown Relevance to Humans
NIOSH (REL) none established, Appendix A - NIOSH Potential Occupational Carcinogens; Appendix C - Supplementary Exposure Limits (Aldehydes)
NIOSH (IDHL) 2,000 ppm
(TWA=Time-weighted average; TLV=Threshold Limit Value; PEL=Personal Exposure Limit, REL=Recommended Exposure Limit; IDHL=Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health concentration)


References - all Aldehydes
OSHA Hospital eTool-Glutaraldehyde: Best Practices for the Safe Use of Glutaraldehyde in Health Care. OSHA Publication 3258, (2006), 261 KB PDF, 48 pages.
OSHA Safety and Health Topics - Formaldehyde
OSHA Formaldehyde Standard
OSHA Chemical Sampling Information - Formaldehyde
NIOSH Safety and Health Topic - Formaldehyde
EPA Air Toxics - Formaldehyde
OSHA Chemical Sampling Information - Acetaldehyde
NIOSH Pocket Guide - Acetaldehyde
Application Guide for RAD165 - radiello Passive Sampler for Aldehydes


Related Products
radiello Cartridge Adsorbent for Sampling Aldedydes - (RAD165)
radiello Filtration Kit, pk of 20 - (RAD174)
radiello Aldehyde Calibration Standard - (RAD302)
DSD-DNPH Passive Sampling Device for Aldehydes, pk of 10 - (28221-U)
ORBO-25 Sorbent Tube for Acetaldehyde, pk of 25 - (20357)
ORBO-827 Filter, 37 mm, pk of 25 - (20069)
Aldehyde Standards Aldehyde/DNPH Standards
Ascentis® HPLC Columns C18 and RP-Amide columns 25 or 15 cm x 4.6, 5 µm
Acetonitrile, ≥99.9% (GC) - (34921)


Phenolic Compounds (Phenols)

Phenol is commonly used as an antiseptic and analgesic in the Healthcare Industry. It also has other uses such as the primary chemical in embalming fluid for its preservation characteristics. It is more widely used for this purpose in medical embalming versus for public where formaldehyde is most often used. It has other uses such as in the manufacture of drugs, herbicides, synthetic resins, and cosmetics.

Common symptoms of exposure: Eye, nose, throat irritation; anorexia, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, lassitude (weakness, exhaustion), headache, dizziness, muscle ache, pain; cardiac arrhythmia; labored breathing, shortness of breath, pulmonary edema, cyanosis; liver, kidney damage; skin burns, dermatitis; ochronosis; tremor, convulsions, twitching; metabolic acidosis.
Skin Absorption: Numbness, collapse, coma.
Ingestion: acute abdominal pain, sore throat, diarrhea; smoky, greenish-dark urine; shock or collapse.


Exposure Limits
Agency Exposure Limit
OSHA (PEL) for General Industry: 5 ppm, 19 mg/m³ TWA; Skin
for Construction Industry: 5 ppm, 19 mg/m³ TWA; Skin
for Maritime: 5 ppm, 19 mg/m³ TWA; Skin
ACGIH (TLV) 5 ppm, 19 mg/m³ TWA; Skin; Appendix A4 - Not Classifiable as a Human Carcinogen
NIOSH (REL) 5 ppm, 19 mg/m³ TWA Skin; 15.6 ppm, 60 mg/m³ Ceiling (15 Minutes); Skin
NIOSH (IDHL) 250 ppm
(TWA=Time-weighted average; TLV=Threshold Limit Value; PEL=Personal Exposure Limit, REL=Recommended Exposure Limit; IDHL=Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health concentration)


OSHA Chemical Fact File - Phenols
NIOSH Pocket Guide - Phenols
EPA Air Toxics - Phenols
Application Guide for RAD147 – radiello Passive Sampler for Phenols


Related Products
radiello Cartridge Adsorbents for Sampling Phenolic Compounds - (RAD147)
ORBO 615 - (20053)
Phenol Standards
SPB1000 Capillary GC Column, 30 m x 0.32 mm - (24315)
Petrocol™ DH50.2 Capillary GC Column, 50 m x 0.2 mm - (24133-U)
Nukol™ Bonded free fatty Acid Phase Capillary GC Column, 30 m x 0.32mm - (24131)

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