Airborne Isocyanate Exposures in the Collision Repair Industry and a Comparison to Occupational Exposure Limits

In this study, the authors evaluated isocyanate exposure in 33 spray painters from 25 Washington State autobody shops. Personal breathing zone samples (n ) 228) were analysed for isophorone diisocyanate (IPDI) monomer, 1,6-hexamethylene diisocyanate (HDI) monomer, IPDI polyisocyanate, and three polyisocyanate forms of HDI. The objective was to describe exposures to isocyanates while spray painting, compare them with short-term exposure limits (STELs), and describe the isocyanate composition in the samples. The composition of polyisocyanates (IPDI and HDI) in the samples varied greatly, with maximum amounts ranging from up to 58% for HDI biuret to 96% for HDI isocyanurate. There was a significant inverse relationship between the percentage composition of HDI isocyanurate to IPDI and to HDI uretdione. Two 15-min STELs were compared: (1) Oregon’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OR-OSHA) STEL of 1000 íg/m3 for HDI polyisocyanate, and (2) the United Kingdom’s Health and Safety Executive (UK-HSE) STEL of 70 íg NCO/m3 for all isocyanates. Eighty percent of samples containing HDI polyisocyanate exceeded the OR-OSHA STEL while 98% of samples exceeded the UK-HSE STEL. The majority of painters (67%) wore half-face air-purifying respirators while spray painting. Using the OR-OSHA and the UK-HSE STELs as benchmarks, 21% and 67% of painters, respectively, had at least one exposure that exceeded the respirator’s OSHA-assigned protection factor. A critical review of the STELs revealed the following limitations: (1) the OR-OSHA STEL does not include all polyisocyanates, and (2) the UK-HSE STEL is derived from monomeric isocyanates, whereas the species present in typical spray coatings are polyisocyanates. The authors concluded that the variable mixtures of isocyanates used by autobody painters suggest that an occupational exposure limit is required that includes all polyisocyanates. Despite the limitations of the STELs, The authors detected that a respirator with an assigned protection factor of 25 or greater is required to protect against isocyanate exposures during spray painting. Consequently, half-face air-purifying respirators, which are most commonly used and have an assigned protection factor of 10, do not afford adequate respiratory protection.

Authors: Reeb-Whitaker, Carolyn; Whittaker, Stephen G.; Ceballos, Diana M.; Weiland, Elisa C.; Flack, Sheila L.; Fent, Kenneth W.; Thomasen, Jennifer M.; Trelles Gaines, Linda G.; Nylander-French, Leena A. ;Full Source: Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene 2012, 9(5), 329-339 (English) ;