This is an image of a laser particle counter. Specifically a Fluke Model 983. It is a tool that we used in order to monitor the levels of airborne dust that we were generating while working with pieces of highly emissive insulative sheeting.
What is a laser particle counter?
An instrument for counting microscopic (invisible to the naked eye) particulate in the field.
How does a laser particle counter work?
Basically, it’s a vacuum with a laser pointed into the airstream at a certain point, and a detector to pick up the reflections from the laser. Based on the size of the reflection, a tiny computer in there can sort out how big it is.
Why would you use a tool like this?
One of the great problems with working with materials like mold, asbestos fibers and some other particulates is that they tend to be below the visual threshold. You can’t see them with the naked eye until there’s a lot of them. By then, it’s usually far too much.
So what a tool like this lets you do is measure how many particles are in the air, and you can change your behavior accordingly. Test out new tools and methods with real-time feedback.
One of the biggest problems with cleaning is trying to tell when you’re done. For most household cleaning, this is as simple as trying to achieve a certain visual result or what would be the equivalent of a glove check (nothing comes off on your finger).
A professional trying to remediate microbial hazards can’t afford to leave things to chance, however. How do you verify that the contamination that resulted from a release of sewage into a home has been properly cleaned up? You can’t see bacteria.
Enter ATP testing. Made possible by technology from Hygiena, responsible remediators and restorers can verify their work to show quantifiable evidence that an area has been cleaned in a workmanlike manner. The tools necessary to do this are a luminometer and sample collection swabs.
First off, how the hell does all of this work? (from the Hygiena website)
In conjunction with the Ultrasnap and Aquasnap testing devices, SystemSURE Plus measures adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the universal energy molecule found in all animal, plant, bacteria, yeast and mold cells. Residues, particularly food or organic residue, contain large amounts of ATP. When left on a surface, residues can harbor and grow bacteria, cause cross-contamination, develop biofilm and many other problems that can compromise product quality. Microbial contamination contains ATP, but in small amounts. After cleaning, all sources of ATP should be significantly reduced. When ATP is brought into contact with Hygiena’s unique, liquid-stable luciferase/luciferin reagent in the Ultrasnap or Aquasnap testing device, light is emitted in direct proportion to the amount of ATP present. The system measures the amount of light generated and provides information on the level of contamination in just seconds. The higher the reading, the more contamination present.
So the area is cleaned as you would expect to pass a visual inspection, then you open one of the swabs and move the tip around the area to be tested (in a specific area size, paying attention to expose the whole of the tip to the area and to sample the whole of the area). Then the swab is placed back into the tube and the very top of the swab is tilted sharply to one side, then squeezed. The reagent goes down the hollow middle of the swab and out through the end.
The now activated swab is placed promptly into the luminometer, and the meter activated. 15 seconds later, a reading crops up. The manufacturer supplies guidelines for interpreting the reading, which is in RLU (Relative Light Units).
This is a highly effective tool for a variety of projects with microbial concerns. HD Hazard Control came to use these devices after observing their use by Indoor Environmental Professionals checking the quality of work performed. It only makes sense to bring this kind of quality control into a company’s work processes, not to supplant third-party verification, but to supplement it.