NORA Manufacturing Sector Strategic Goals
927ZGFN - Survey of Chemical Exposure in the Biodiesel IndustryStart Date: 10/1/2008
End Date: 9/30/2009
Principal Investigator (PI)Name: Brandon Law
Funded By: NIOSH
Primary Goal Addressed5.0
Secondary Goal AddressedNone
Attributed to Manufacturing100%
Occupational health hazards will be assessed in the emerging industry of biodiesel production. Potential health hazards in terms of exposure to methanol, sodium hydroxide and soy allergens have been identified via literature searches. Surface and air sampling for methanol, sodium hydroxide and soy allergen in several biodiesel production facilities are being proposed. Sources of personnel exposure in the biodiesel production process will be identified and quantified. Results and recommendations from this assessment will be reported to each biodiesel production facility studied, and we will disseminate the overall findings through trade and/or peer-reviewed publications.
There are presently 171 commercial biodiesel plants in the US with a total annual production capacity of 2.24 billion gallons. Demand for biodiesel has risen from 25 million gallons in 2004 to an estimated 450 million gallons in 2007. In addition to the larger commercial producers there are multiple small back-yard producers and universities that have small scale biodiesel reactors. The hazards of methanol and sodium hydroxide are well recognized, but there are no reported studies of the occupational exposure levels found in this industry. The production process is fairly simple. Feed stock, methanol and sodium hydroxide are added to a reactor where the oils are extracted and methyoxylated to form biodiesel. Methanol is trapped in a condenser and reused.
The ultimate goal of occupational safety and health should be the identification of hazards while an industry is developing. Occupational health hazards will be assessed by surface and air sampling for methanol, sodium hydroxide, and soy allergens in several biodiesel production facilities. Engineering control of any hazards identified could be implemented early before hazards result in health problems and worker injury.
Biodiesel production plants are increasing exponentially in the United States. Potential occupational health hazards include exposure to methanol, lye and allergenic components from feedstock such as soy. Exposure levels to these agents in this relatively young industry have not been measured. Assessment of the occupational environment during the infancy stage of the biodiesel industry has the potential to provide crucial information for plant owners/operators that will aid in the prevention of exposure of plant workers to hazardous agents within the industry.