Health Hazard Evaluation Report HETA 99-0106-2770, Sommer-Allibert Industries, USA, Inc., Kansas City, Missouri.
On February 12, 1997, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) received a confidential request for a health hazard evaluation (HHE) from employees of Sommer-Allibert Industries, USA, Inc. (SAI) in Kansas City, Missouri. The request was prompted by the reported occurrence of adverse health effects that employees associated with exposures to airborne contaminants from the paints and coatings used during the manufacture of automotive fascia (plastic front and rear bumpers). On April 28-29, 1997, investigators from NIOSH visited the SAI facility to conduct environmental sampling and evaluate the existing ventilation systems in the paint kitchen. Environmental air samples were collected for acetone, butyl alcohol, isopropanol, isobutanol, naphtha, toluene, butyl acetate, ethylbenzene, aromatic naphtha, xylenes, methanol, methyl ethyl ketone (MEK), and formaldehyde. Formaldehyde concentrations determined for four area air samples ranged from 0.03 to 0.11 parts per million (ppm). These concentrations were above the NIOSH Recommended Exposure Limit (REL) of 0.016 ppm as a time-weighted average (TWA). In addition, one area sample collected in the distribution area had an airborne formaldehyde concentration (0.11 ppm) which equaled the NIOSH ceiling limit of 0.1 ppm. Although NIOSH has established numerical RELs for formaldehyde, it also considers formaldehyde to be a suspected human carcinogen and recommends that exposures be reduced to the lowest feasible concentration. All of the TWA concentrations for the remaining analytes calculated for each of the three areas in the paint kitchen and the paint mixers were well below their relevant evaluation criteria. In addition, all of the short-term exposures determined during this investigation were well below the relevant evaluation criteria for all the analytes, where applicable. The potential additive effects of exposure to these solvents on the central nervous and respiratory systems was also assessed. Three samples collected from the paint mixers and the average area concentrations for the distribution area indicated the potential for excessive solvent exposures. Although half-mask air-purifying respirators, which reduced worker exposures to these solvents, were required in the distribution area, these respirators did not protect against exposure to formaldehyde. The ventilation assessment and the environmental sampling results indicated that the ventilation system for the paint kitchen was not adequate and that improvements to the existing system were needed.