Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-2002-0257-2916, Bil-Mar Foods, Inc., Storm Lake, Iowa.
On May 16, 2002, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) received a request for a health hazard evaluation (HHE) at Bil-Mar Foods in Storm Lake, Iowa, from the Occupational Safety and Health Bureau of the Iowa Division of Labor. This request for technical assistance noted that employees in the evisceration department were experiencing symptoms such as eye and respiratory irritation. On June 26-27, 2002, NIOSH medical and industrial hygiene representatives visited the facility. On June 26th, an opening conference was held and attended by NIOSH investigators, representatives of Bil-Mar Foods, and employee representatives. After the opening conference, a walk-through survey of the facility was conducted to observe operational procedures and work practices. Following the walk-through, air flow patterns were evaluated in the evisceration department. On June 26th and 27th, employees on the first shift in the evisceration and dark meat departments were administered questionnaires regarding medical, job, and personal history, and work-related symptoms. Air samples and readings for chlorine, ammonia, carbon dioxide, temperature, and relative humidity were taken in the same departments during the first shift on the 27th. No chlorine or ammonia was detected at any station. On June 2-6, 2003, NIOSH investigators returned to the facility. Personal breathing zone (PBZ) and area air samples were collected for chloramines and endotoxins in the evisceration and dark meat areas of the facility during the 6 a.m. to 2 p.m shift on each of these five days. Drager tubes were used to sample for chlorine, and carbon dioxide, temperature, and relative humidity were measured throughout the week. Every individual who wore sampling equipment was also asked to perform spirometry immediately prior to, and directly after, their work shift as part of the medical monitoring aspect of the evaluation. Additionally, they were questioned about mucous membrane and respiratory symptoms experienced during that shift. The concentrations of chloramine compounds (trichloramine and soluble chlorine [monochloramine, dichloramine, hypochlorite, and hypochlorous acid]) were significantly higher in the evisceration area than the dark meat area. Additionally, upper respiratory irritation symptoms, such as stuffy or itchy nose, frequent sneezing, and cough, and burning or stinging eyes, were found to be significantly more prevalent in the evisceration line workers than in the dark meat workers. The levels of soluble chlorine compounds measured by PBZ samples were significantly higher for those employees who reported these symptoms compared to those employees who did not. In addition, the levels of trichloramine were significantly higher in employees who reported burning or stinging eyes. Mean PBZ concentrations of trichloramine and soluble chlorine were higher in workers with significant cross-shift declines in lung function. The levels of endotoxin in the pinning room were found to be much higher than in any other area of the evisceration or dark meat areas. Endotoxin levels were significantly higher in the evisceration area than the dark meat area, although they were not significantly related to reported employee symptoms. Results of this evaluation suggest a health hazard may exist from exposure to soluble chlorine compounds and trichloramine. Recommendations include further assessment and potential modification of the facility’s ventilation system in order to maximize its ability to dilute and exhaust such airborne contaminants. Further collaboration between Bil-Mar Foods and NIOSH is planned for such an assessment. An exposure evaluation by NIOSH is also recommended after any ventilation recommendations are implemented.
Region-7; Slaughterhouses; Poultry; Poultry-industry; Poultry-workers; Eye-irritants; Respiratory-irritants; Chlorine-compounds; Air-flow; Air-sampling; Ammonium-compounds; Temperature-effects; Endotoxins; Food-processing-industry; Food-processing-workers; Medical-monitoring; Breathing-zone; Ventilation; Exposure-levels; Lung-function; Hazard-Unconfirmed