Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-2003-0351-2972, Freudenberg-NOK, High Quality Plastics Division, Findlay, Ohio.
In August 2003 the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) received a confidential request for a health hazard evaluation (HHE) from employees at Freudenberg-NOK G.P., High Quality Plastics Division (HQP) in Findlay, Ohio. Employees were concerned with potential exposure to airborne particles and fumes created during the manufacture of polytetrafluroethylene (PTFE, Teflon) and thermoplastic rotating ring seals. The initial request noted that workers were experiencing non-specific respiratory symptoms, itchy skin, and "oven fever" (presumably from exposure to PTFE fumes generated during the manufacturing process). In subsequent conversations with the requesters concerns involving heavy lifting and repetitive movement were also mentioned. Personal breathing zone (PBZ) and general area (GA) sampling was performed for hydrogen fluoride, carbonyl fluoride, glass fibers, elements (cobalt, zirconium, tin, and chromium), and respirable particulate. PBZ and GA air samples were collected from Work Cells 1, 3, 3N, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 10. Workers who requested to speak with NIOSH representatives were interviewed to determine the extent and severity of their health concerns. We also reviewed Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) Illness and Injury logs for the years 1999-2003. The ergonomics evaluation consisted of a walk through of the plant to view the variety of job tasks workers perform to produce PTFE and thermoplastic seals, subassembly systems, and plastic mating components. No overexposures to fibrous glass, gaseous and particulate fluorides, respirable dust, or metals were found, based on PBZ and GA air samples collected on the days of this evaluation. Most interviewed workers did not have symptoms they attributed to working conditions at HQP. However, some interviewed workers complained of dry, itchy skin that they associated with exposure to fibrous glass in the plastic mix, and three workers reported muscle fatigue in the arms and low back from lifting heavy loads into the ovens. We observed some physically demanding work that may be improved by redesigning parts containers and handles. NIOSH investigators conclude that a health hazard does not exist at this facility. However, some work is physically demanding and improvements can be made to the containers used to handle the mandrels. Recommendations have been provided to redesign a container used to transport mandrels around the plant.