Occupational Asthma, or The Flue?
Back in December there was a post on the Autoart Magazine Bulletin Board that basically questioned his flue like symptoms after a small clearing job. Several folks came on and gave some good information and their comments, especially the information that was provided by “Large”. It was right on target. What I especially liked was a couple of lines that really makes a point, “…cause all the money your wife gets in a lawsuit from a paint company won’t get your ass out of the box!” and, “Being a “MAN” is one thing, being a “Stupid Man” is another.” The individual came back later and attributed it to actually being exposed to someone with the flue. The author of the post had tried to find information on the Internet dealing with symptoms of isocyanate exposure with out much luck. I’ve e written several articles in the past dealing with this issue, but I thought I should review some things with you.
I know it’s impossible to get to every person in the world that is going to use these products, but know that all manufactures are required to supply warning data on their product labels and make MSDS sheets available to any who requests it. I know that a few suppliers that I purchase from actually mail me an MSDS sheet each time I order a product. Here is a listing of symptoms that may help, all though they are very similar to those associated with the flue:
Occur immediately or shortly after exposure:
#1. Allergic sensitization, which is a permanent condition where breathing or skin problems can return with increased severity following further exposure to the sensitization agent, even at very low exposure levels.
#2. Wheezing, shortness of breath or coughing.
#3.Irritation of the eyes and lungs.
#4. Stuffiness of the nose.
#5. Sore throat.
#6. Tightness in the chest.
These symptoms may be delayed up to eight hours after exposure. Long-term, or permanent breathing or chest problems, including asthma, may appear even when no longer exposed. Increased sensitivity means sever asthma attacks could result if a person is exposed again even at concentrations well below the established exposure limits. In some cases extreme skin rash can appear. An unusual property of isocyanate is its ability to sensitize the respiratory system even if the initial exposures are only to the skin or mucus membranes (i.e., eyes, nose, throat) So it is reasonable to say that the individual may have exaggerated his flue like symptoms after exposure to the isocyanates while clear coating.
As I mentioned in a previous article (Back to Basics) isocyanates also attack the central nervous system and can cause sever uncontrolled, involuntary muscle spasms. In simple terms it inhibits body chemistry that controls motor functions. It cannot be detected in the blood or other normal lab tests. There is a test that can be performed with regard to the central nervous system to detect over exposure but it requires a baseline test prior to exposure, so If your going to be working with isocyanates on a regular basis you might want to ask your doctor about a Cholinesterase Inhibiter baseline test.
There was research done by OSHA on isocyanate exposure and protection levels. If you would like to read the whole thing go to this web sight and check it out.
I’m posting just a brief part of the results that I thought you would get the most out of:
NIOSH recommends air-supplied respirators when there is the potential for exposure to isocyanates. However, if air-purifying respirators are used, there are a few items, which should be noted. First, there are no NIOSH approved air-purifying respirators for isocyanates primarily because isocyanates have no odor warning properties. Studies have shown that combination dust/mist and organic cartridges effectively stop isocyanates and that the various solvents will break through long before any isocyanate.32-34 Therefore, the odor property of n-butyl acetate could be used to determine when respirators need to be replaced. Eye and skin protection should be provided during spray painting. At a minimum, air-purifying respirators are indicated by the organic chemical and total dust exposures.
Hope all this helps. May I suggest making a copy of this article and passing it along to your suppliers and maybe they could post it or provide a copy to potential new comers who don’t always have a clue as to the dangers they may put themselves or others into.
As always knowledge is power, make informed decisions, and be safe…Robin
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