Air movement visualization in the workplace: Current methods and new approaches

A. Maynard, J. Thompson, J. R. Cain, B. Rajan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Airflow visualization in the workplace to assess containment, ventilation, or general air movements is often carried out using smoke tracers. The most prevalent method uses a disposable smoke tube that generates a plume of concentrated sulfuric acid fume. However, use of the smoke tube exposes occupational hygienists to the risk of sulfuric acid exposure through inhalation or dermal contact, as well as injury from sharps. Following concern over the potential health hazard associated with smoke tube usage, alternative flow visualization methods and technologies have been reviewed. Methods of generating smoke or bubbles other than using smoke tubes suitable for visualizing air movements include heated element smoke generators, combustion generators, generation of metallic chlorides and ammonium chloride, generation of neutral density bubbles, and water fog generation. Some of these methods are applicable in specific workplace situations. However, there is no commercially available smoke or bubble generator currently available that matches the smoke tube for cost effectiveness, ease of use, and wide applicability, while also reducing the potential health risks associated with smoke tube usage. Despite this, certain technologies, in particular water/glycerol smoke generation using heated element generators, have the potential to be developed into viable alternatives to the smoke tube. Thus, with further development, an air movement visualization method that poses a significantly lower health hazard than the smoke tube is feasible.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-55
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Industrial Hygiene Association Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Aerosol
  • Air movement tracer
  • Air movement visualization
  • Smoke generation
  • Smoke tube

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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