National Ground Water Association to Highlight Vapor Intrusion Risk Assessment and Research in Special Issue of Groundwater Monitoring & Remediation

The National Ground Water Association (NGWA) announced a focus issue of its research publication Groundwater Monitoring & Remediation (GWMR) will be published this month on advances in vapor intrusion risk assessment.

Vapor intrusion occurs when vapor-forming chemicals from subsurface sources, such as groundwater, migrate into buildings above the subsurface source. While vapor intrusion was first largely researched as a pathway for radon exposure in the 1980s, vapor-forming chemicals can include many volatile organic compounds such as trichlorethylene and benzene. High levels of exposure to certain chemical vapors may lead to various health issues for those who occupy buildings contaminated through vapor intrusion.

The upcoming focus issue of GWMR, titled “Advancements in Vapor Intrusion Risk Assessment,” was developed with special guest editors: Matthew Lahvis of Shell Global Solutions, Chase Holton of Geosyntec Consultants, and Henry Schuver of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Resource Conservation and Recovery Act Cleanup Program.

Vapor intrusion remediation and research has become a growing field as it now represents a primary pathway of exposure to chemicals in the workplace. In fact, this is the second time GWMR has dedicated a focus issue to the subject as it also covered it in 2009. And, while there are health risks associated with human exposure through vapor intrusion, there are also significant safety concerns.

“Vapor intrusion is not just an issue of chronic or acute exposure humans have to chemical contaminants,” said Lahvis. “There is also a real safety concern from methane , which can build up through biodegradation and become a fire risk for the building.”

A driving factor of future vapor intrusion remediation will be the advances in technology which measure the amount of chemicals that have migrated into buildings from the subsurface. Because the environmental makeup and construction of sites vary so widely, it has been historically difficult for remediation experts to get consistent measurements and know when to sample buildings.
Lahvis hopes the upcoming issue of GWMR will bring more awareness to advances in vapor measurement technology. “There has been a lot of evolution of the science and the complexities of new tools being developed and one of our desires with this issue was to put these developments in one place and hopefully gain more visibility,” he adds.

The national push towards building and retrofitting more energy efficient homes and offices has also led to new challenges in vapor intrusion remediation.

“As buildings become more energy efficient, they may also see a reduction in their indoor-outdoor air exchange rate, increasing the potential for vapor accumulation,” said Holton. “I think in the future, vapor intrusion science will be more closely linked to building science, and I hope this issue can play a role in kickstarting those efforts.”
For further comment or for more information, please contact Ben Frech at bfrech@ngwa.org.

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