WASHINGTON-Workers handling polyurethane in non-PU manufacturing settings are in danger of serious respiratory reactions to diisocyanates, according to an alert issued by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The Polyurethane Division of the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. of Washington picked up on the NIOSH alert, urging its members to review current workplace safety practices and procedures for handling of diisocyanates. While the alert contains no new information, it is geared toward ``a number of jobs and workplaces not traditionally seen as areas of chemical exposure,'' according to a NIOSH spokesman.
Diisocyanates - particularly toluene diisocyanate and methylene bisphenyl isocyanate - are used extensively to make flexible and rigid PU foams, elastomers, coatings and other products.
Diisocyanates can irritate the gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts and the mucous membranes of the eyes. At worst, they can cause severe, potentially fatal asthma and other respiratory conditions.
The alert tells employers to inform workers of possible diisocyanate exposure, to substitute other materials wherever possible, and to provide adequate ventilation and respiratory protection.
Both NIOSH and SPI of Washington recommended that workers who handle diisocyanates review material safety data sheets, wash frequently and wear appropriate respiratory protection and gloves.