Monday, August 5, 2013

Chemical Exposure: Workers engaged in degreasing, adhesive spray applications, dry cleaning at risk

OSHA, NIOSH issue hazard alert for 1-bromopropane

Workers engaged in degreasing operations, adhesive spray applications, dry cleaning, and other activities are at risk of exposure to 1-bromopropane (1-BP), a chemical with a wide range of adverse health effects. That’s the gist of a recent hazard alert issued by OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which urges employers to take steps to protect workers from the hazards of this dangerous chemical.
OSHA does not currently have a standard for 1-BP, and the chemical is not included in its list of substances with permissible exposure limits (PELs). However, Cal/OSHA has recognized the hazards associated with 1-BP, and, as a result, California has adopted a time-weighted-average PEL of 5 parts per million. NIOSH is currently developing a recommended exposure level (REL).

Exposure to 1-BP, also known as n-propyl bromide (nPB), can cause a range of symptoms, including irritation of the eyes, mucous membranes, upper airways, and skin, and neurological damage, which can include dizziness, headaches, confusion, loss of consciousness, difficulty walking, loss of feeling in arms and/or legs, and slurred speech. In addition, research suggests that 1-BP may be a human carcinogen. Workers can be exposed by inhaling the chemical in airborne form or through skin contact, and symptoms can persist even after exposure has ended.

OSHA and NIOSH recommend replacing 1-BP used in the workplace with a less toxic chemical, such as an acetone- or water-based adhesive. The hazard alert cautions, however, that replacement chemicals may also have associated hazards that should be assessed and controlled.

If discontinuing the use of 1-BP is not feasible, the following controls should be used to reduce the hazard level:
  • Isolating processes or machinery that use 1-BP;
  • Ensuring that proper ventilation is in place and in good working condition;
  • Reducing the amount of time that workers are exposed to 1-BP;
  • Keeping containers of 1-BP closed between uses;
  • Purchasing, using, and storing the smallest amount of 1-BP possible;
  • Providing air-purifying or supplied-air respirators with the appropriate assigned protection factor; and
  • Providing chemical-protective gloves, arm sleeves, aprons, and other clothing, as necessary
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