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Testing Compressed Air Lines for Microbiological Contamination

can range from fungal spores, to bacterial spores, and various vegetative microorganisms, depending on the environmental conditions. These organisms can range in size from less than one micron to several microns in size. Therefore, when designing an air supply system, every effort should be taken to ensure entrapment of these contaminants before they get to the product.

Test Compressed Air Lines
Routinely Compressed air lines should be tested on a routine basis in order to determine the microbiological cleanliness of the air supply. Compressed air lines undergo the same changes as other dynamic systems, such as contraction, condensation, sedimentation, and in the case of compressors, oxidation when the air-lines are stagnant over an extended period of time.

Testing should be conducted on a periodic basis, and the frequency of the testing should take into consideration important factors such as:

Increased/Reduced production schedules
Seasonal changes
Equipment changes/modifications
Replacement of hardware and/or filters/dryers
Inactivity of system

Methodology
A simple test that utilizes air impaction onto growth media is suggested. A general sampling method would be to reduce the pressure of the compressed air line (which usually is 160 pounds per square inch or greater), using a built-in or external regulator; attach a flow meter, and adjust the flow to a suitable rate, for example, 1 cubic foot per minute; and attach the air impaction sampler which has been prepared with a Petri plate. You should select parameters best suited for your application or those noted in ISO 8573-4. See Figure 1.

Test Equipment

The Slit Sampler (also known as the slit-to-agar sampler) is a device which utilizes a rotating stage which holds the Petri
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