Ontario Environmental & Safety Network Ltd.
​IS0 8573-1:2010                Call us at 1-888-271-2111

Is compressed air testing applicable to my industry?
Compressed air is used in many segments of the food industry. Many segments, like bakeries for example, use compressed air to clean containers before filling the containers with food.  Compressed air is also used to cut, sort and shape food products.  

Why does compressed air require testing?
Compressed air quality is a critical factor in food manufacturing.  The Canadian Food Safety Enhancement program has identified compressed air and gas used in processing and packaging as a potential source of contamination.  Compressed air must be contaminant-free to ensure the protection of the food products processed in each facility. Compressed air efficiently supports the food industry so long as due diligence is taken to remove contaminants from the system and regular compressed air testing is undertaken; maintaining a compressed air test program can provide critical information to monitor compressed air quality and help prevent contamination of the food supply in a timely manner.

Where can contamination in compressed air come from?
Compressed air quality is overlooked as a potential hazard during internal risk assessments.  This is likely because compressed air is odourless, colourless and tasteless or because many people consider compressed air to be – just air.  However, contaminated compressed air can create major issues for food manufacturers. Compressed air contamination sources include the ambient air intake and the compressor itself.  Air compressors draw in large volumes of air from the surrounding area, therefore careful consideration should be given to the placement of the compressor intake to avoid drawing in contaminants as much as possible.

What are the contaminants in compressed air?
At any given time the atmospheric air feeding the compressor inlet can have contaminants such as solid particles, water vapour, oil vapour and micro-organisms.
Medical and pharmaceutical processes consider water vapour and other gases as contaminants that can cause damage to labeling, packaging and finished goods.
The presence of moisture is the primary concern for the food industry because moisture creates an ideal breeding ground for mould growth. Microorganisms and fungus can grow inside the piping system and then be blown into food products or food containers. In order to inhibit the growth of microorganisms and fungi, pressure dew points must be below -15˚F (-26˚C). Drying the compressed air to a specified pressure dew point is the simple way to eliminate moisture in the compressed air system.

My compressor is oil free. Do I still need compressed air testing?

Having an oil free compressor does not free the system of compressed air treatment/testing requirements.

What standards, regulations or guidelines apply to compressed air testing?
The International Standards Organization (ISO) has established a specification that targets compressed air: ISO 8573.  ISO 8573 on compressed air is comprised of nine documents that describe compressed air contaminants and purity classes plus the sampling and analytical techniques to be used.  The contaminants specified are particles, water and oil, as well as microbiological contaminants.  The purity classes can be used to describe the quality of a compressed air system and to specify the required quality for a precise application.  Compressed air specifications should meet product performance requirements.

How is the compressed air evaluated?
The performance of a compressed air system may be evaluated in terms of compressor output at the compressor itself, in the piping downstream of the compressor and at the various points of use.

How are points of use / sampling locations determined?
Knowledge of the compressor output is important in terms of selecting downstream filtration and assessing gross contamination of the piping system. Partial flow sampling is inappropriate in systems where steady-state flow, temperature and pressure cannot be maintained. Full flow sampling may be used at any point in a compressed air system and requires a sampling device that has the capacity to handle the full flow at that point in the system.  This accounts for the vast majority of samples, as most users wish to know the air purity at the point of use where air may come in direct or indirect contact with the product

Who can test compressed air?
 Because compressed air is so critical in the food manufacturing process, qualified personnel should be employed to properly maintain, service and test the compressed air system. ISO Compressed Air Testing (a division of OESN) has experienced technicians that will work with your requirements and staff to produce validatable systems, descriptions and documents to move your projects forward. ISO compressed air testing highly recommends routing regular testing of your compressed air systems to meet your air quality program and for verification and compliance with any standards your organization is seeking. 

Can compressed air testing help diagnose other potential issues?
Most air compressors use oil in the compression stage for sealing, lubrication and cooling.  The oil used for these purposes can easily be carried over to the compressed air system. Oil is able to mix with the water vapour in the air and this mixing can cause damage to the compressed air system. If there is particulate in your compressed air system, this is also problematic. Particulate will plug orifices of sensitive pneumatic instrumentation, wear of seals, erode compressed air system components and reduce efficiency of your compressed air system and even the absorptive capacity of desiccant dryers. Condensed water can increase maintenance costs or also cause corrosion and rust to your compressed air system and piping. Some compressed air systems may malfunction if condensation forms on internal parts.