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Nicotine as a fumigant: exposures among research greenhouse employees.

American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition, May 9-15, 1998, Atlanta, Georgia. Fairfax, VA: American Industrial Hygiene Association, 1998 May; :51
An exposure assessment study was conducted by NIOSH investigators in response to a request from the manager of a university occupational health and safety program. The request concerned potential exposures of greenhouse employees and researchers to the insecticide nicotine during fumigation activities and maintenance of research plants. There were no reported health problems; however, there were concerns that employees may be reentering the greenhouse before nicotine air concentrations have decreased to safe level. A newly developed NIOSH sampling and analytical method for nicotine in environmental tobacco smoke was used to collect and analyze personal breathing zone (PBZ) and area air samples inside the greenhouse. It was hypothesized that during fumigation, nicotine may be present both as a vapor and bound or absorbed onto particulates generated during the fumigation process. Particle counts were measured over the same time periods as the nicotine concentrations to evaluate the correlation between them and assess the possibility of using the faster and more easily obtained particle count data to estimate nicotine concentration prior to reentry by greenhouse employees. Surface wipe samples were collected on commonly used greenhouse surfaces before and after the fumigation and analyzed for nicotine content. PBZ samples colleclecd for greenhouse employees ranged from nondetectable to 0.15 mg/m3 and indicated that none of the employees were exposed to nicotine concentrations exceeding applicable occupational exposure limits (0.5 mg/m3). Area air samples collected for nicotine in two greenhouse sections before, during, and after a 13-hour fumigation process indicated that nicotine concentrations peaked at 3.3 mg/m3 within 10 minutes of the start of fumigation but fell within 40 minutes and were less then 0.5 mg/m3 within 1 hour after fumigation began. Nicotine concentrations collected in a connecting hallway remained low (0.0017-0.16 mg/m3) throughout the fumigation. The wipe samples results showed that some residual nicotine levels were almost 60 times higher after the fumigation. Because nicotine is readily absorbed through the skin, employees may be exposed to nicotine when they touch greenhouse surfaces and use equipment. Particle count data were not useful predictors of nicotine concentrations and therefore could not be used to determine when it is safe to reenter the greenhouse.
Employee-exposure; Insecticides; Fumigants; Plants; Air-contamination; Sampling-methods; Analytical-methods; Work-environment; Environmental-contamination; Sampling; Breathing-zone; Tobacco-smoke; Air-quality-monitoring; Air-sampling; Particle-counters; Particulates; Exposure-assessment; Exposure-levels
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American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition, May 9-15, 1998, Atlanta, Georgia