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Current Trends Update: Paint, Cadmium, and Monohalomethanes in the Workplace

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) periodically issues documents to transmit new information or to update existing information on specific chemical substances, physical agents, or other hazards found in the workplace. Three such documents, recently issued, are summarized below. Each is available for distribution as indicated.

Manufacture of Paint and Allied Coating Products: In September 1984, NIOSH published the criteria document,* Recommendations for Control of Occupational Safety and Health Hazards...Manufacture of Paint and Allied Coating Products. This document addresses the health and safety hazards associated with the manufacture of products having the broad functions of surface protection or decoration. Examples are paints, varnishes, lacquers, and stains and related products such as putties and paint and varnish removers. Facilities that manufacture paint and allied coating products are included in the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code 2851, Paint, Varnishes, Lacquers, Enamels, and Allied Products.

NIOSH estimates that the industry producing paint and allied coating products in the United States employs about 61,500 workers in 1,700 plants. Work in this industry involves assembling materials, mixing, dispersing, thinning and adjusting, filling, and warehousing; other related activities include handling of materials, laboratory work, and shipping.

Because of the great diversity of surfaces requiring treatment, thousands of different raw materials are used in the manufacture of approximately 20,000 different coating products. Workers involved in the manufacture of paint and allied coating products are potentially exposed to a variety of chemicals used as pigments and extenders, solvents, film-forming components, and additives.

The document presents data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to compare average incidence rates for injury and illness in SIC 2851 with rates in similar industries (industrial inorganic chemicals; soaps, detergents, perfumes, and cosmetics; and industrial organic chemicals), in all private-sector industries combined, and in all manufacturing industries. It also summarizes additional BLS data to indicate the number of accidents in the paint and allied coating products industry for the following categories: source of injury/illness, type of accident/exposure, nature of injury/illness, and part of body affected. Further analysis of the BLS data for this industry cross-tabulates the type of accident, nature of injury, and body part affected with 38 sources of injury (e.g., boxes, barrels, containers, packages, working surfaces, chemicals, etc.) and with 15 occupational groupings (e.g., laborers, mixing operatives, machine operatives, etc.).

The occupational hazards in this industry fall into three major categories: accidents, fires and explosions, and exposures to toxic substances. NIOSH recommends methods to protect workers by preventing and controlling these hazards. The document also lists permissible exposure limits of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), recommended exposure limits of NIOSH, and the pertinent health effects for many chemicals used in the manufacture of paint and allied coating products.

Order Document No. PB85-178978 from the National Technical Information Service, Springfield, Virginia 22161. Cost: $14.50 paper, $4.50 microfiche.

Cadmium: On September 27, 1984, NIOSH released Current Intelligence Bulletin #42:** Cadmium (Cd). Cadmium occurs primarily as cadmium sulfide in ores containing zinc, lead, and copper. Cadmium volatilizes readily during smelting and then condenses to form fine airborne particles that react almost immediately with oxygen to form respirable cadmium oxide fume. Potential worker exposure to cadmium occurs from ore smelting operations, the mist above cadmium-containing electroplating baths, calcination (drying) of cadmium pigments, and powdered cadmium oxide in the production of cadmium soaps used to stabilize plastics.

NIOSH reports that approximately 4,000 metric tons of cadmium are used yearly in the United States. About half of this is used for plating other metals, and the rest is used in pigments, batteries, stabilizers for plastics, metallurgy, nuclear reactor neutron-absorbing rods, and semiconductors and as a catalyst. Approximately 1.5 million workers may be potentially exposed to cadmium.

NIOSH recommends that cadmium and its compounds be regarded as potential occupational carcinogens and that appropriate controls be used to reduce worker exposure. These recommendations are based on (1) a recent epidemiologic study that demonstrated a statistically significant excess of lung-cancer mortality among workers exposed to cadmium oxide and (2) a study on chronic-inhalation exposure with rats, which provides toxicologic evidence that exposure to cadmium chloride aerosol can cause a dose-dependent incidence of malignant lung tumors. As prudent public health policy, NIOSH urges employers to assess the conditions under which their workers may be exposed to cadmium and to take all reasonable precautions to reduce these exposures to the fullest extent feasible.

Copies are available without charge from Publications Dissemination, Division of Standards Development and Technology Transfer (DSDTT); National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health; 4676 Columbia Parkway; Cincinnati, Ohio 45226.

Monohalomethanes: On September 27, 1984, NIOSH released Current Intelligence Bulletin #43: Monohalomethanes: Methyl Chloride (CH((3))Cl), Methyl Bromide (CH((3))Br), Methyl Iodide CH((3))I. Commercially, these monohalomethanes have been used as methylating agents, laboratory reagents, refrigerants, aerosol propellants, pesticides, fumigants, fire-extinguishing agents, anesthetics, degreasers, blowing agents for plastic foams, and chemical intermediates. Possible exposures may occur during the production of these monohalomethanes from leaks in connecting or flexible joints, pump seals, sight glasses, and quality-control sampling sites. NIOSH estimates that approximately 146,000 U.S. workers are potentially exposed to these compounds.

NIOSH recommends that methyl chloride, methyl bromide, and methyl iodide be considered potential occupational carcinogens and that methyl chloride be considered a potential occupational teratogen. Because these monohalomethanes are alkylating agents, there is concern about their potential for inducing mutations and cancer. All three compounds were found to be direct-acting mutagens in the Ames assay. Experimental studies using various routes of administration in either rats or mice showed that these three compounds have the ability to produce cancer. Methyl chloride produced a teratogenic effect (heart defects) in the offspring of pregnant mice exposed by inhalation at 500 and 750 parts per million. As prudent public health policy, NIOSH recommends that employers assess the conditions under which workers may be exposed to these monohalomethanes and take all reasonable precautions to reduce exposures to the fullest extent feasible.

The strains of animals used, the doses and routes selected for administration of test compounds, and the lack of a coordinated study to test these compounds as a class impose limitations on the interpretation of these studies. However, NIOSH has determined that the collective results of these studies are sufficient to indicate the carcinogenic potential of these substances.

The document presents guidelines for minimizing worker exposure to these monohalomethanes, including procedures and equipment for controlling exposure and recommendations for medical surveillance and monitoring exposure.

Copies are available without charge from Publications Dissemination, DSDTT; National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health; 4676 Columbia Parkway; Cincinnati, Ohio 45226. Reported by Div of Standards Development and Technology Transfer, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, CDC. *The development of criteria documents by NIOSH is a responsibility mandated by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. These documents are used to recommend standards for promulgation by the Department of Labor. **NIOSH issues Current Intelligence Bulletins (CIB's) to disseminate new scientific information about occupational hazards. A CIB may draw attention to a hazard previously unrecognized or may report new data suggesting that a known hazard is either more or less dangerous than was previously thought.

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