NORA Manufacturing Sector Strategic Goals
927ZJFN - Potential Chemical Exposures in the Biodiesel Industry.Start Date: 10/1/2009
End Date: 9/30/2012
Principal Investigator (PI)Name: Brandon Law
Funded By: NIOSH
Primary Goal Addressed5.0
Secondary Goal AddressedNone
Attributed to Manufacturing100%
Biodiesel production is growing exponentially in the United States. This study will assess the potential emerging health hazards due to the production of biodiesel by small producers through air sampling for methanol, sodium hydroxide and soy allergen in the field. Sources of exposure in the production process will be identified and quantified. The knowledge gained from this study will address specific NIOSH research goals for reducing respiratory disease, occupational skin disease and the development of exposure assessment tools in emerging areas where hazards have been identified. There are currently no reported studies on the associated occupational exposure levels to methanol and sodium hydroxide in small biodiesel production facilities. This project should result in peer reviewed journal articles which will provide scientific data needed to develop engineering controls to limit occupational exposures in this industry and will also provide educational materials to workers in the industry through trade and professional 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 purpose of this project is to study the biodiesel production process at several sites to determine where health hazards may exist.
The ultimate goal of occupational safety and health should be the identification of hazards while an industry is developing. Engineering control of the hazards can be implemented early before hazards identify themselves through health problems and worker injury.
Biodiesel production is increasing exponentially in the United States. Potential occupational health hazards include exposure to methanol, lye and allergenic components from feedstock such as soy. Assessment of the occupational environment during the infancy stage of the biodiesel industry has the potential to provide crucial information that will aid in the prevention of exposure to hazardous agents within the industry