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Synthetic fibers in the workplace: where less fiber is healthier.

Lentz T; MacMahon K; Zumwalde R; Dement JM; Kojola WH; Crane A; Venturin DE; Hacker S; Calzavara T; Finkel AM
Fairfax, VA: American Industrial Hygiene Association, 2001 Jan; :1-51
Fibers comprise a diversity of materials that have become profuse and nearly inextricably woven into the patterns of our lives today. But the production of many new synthetic fibers has been accompanied by increased awareness among manufacturers, workers, and the occupational safety and health community of the need for exposure characterization, product stewardship, and education about safe work practices and handling procedures. This awareness has been driven by the recognition of potential respiratory hazards for workers exposed to some airborne synthetic fibers. Toxicological evidence from experimental animal studies also indicates potential health effects associated with exposure to fibers and warrants further concern. To explore these issues, AIHce 2000 (Orlando, FL) RT 223, "Forum on Synthetic fibers in the Workplace: Where Less Fiber is Healthier," was assembled, pulling together representatives from the synthetic fiber industry, labor, government, and academia. The intent was to recognize efforts to characterize workplace fiber exposures, to identify and implement safe work practices and controls, and to communicate safety and health messages about the potential hazards of airborne fibers. Historically, occupational safety and health practitioners have a basis for concern with exposure to airborne fibers; the most controversial case-in-point being the asbestos legacy. Judging from the focus and discussion of the roundtable, participants and audience members were aware of the history with asbestos fibers and eager to draw from this experience in addressing issues with newer and different synthetic fibers. In light of the uncertainties about the health risks for many synthetic fibers, the roundtable focused on preventive measures and stewardship programs initiated and being developed to ensure safe production and handling of synthetic fibers. In so doing, the major objective was to create a forum for examining these programs and to stimulate collaborations among participants and other partners with an interest in this area. Topics of presenters included: 1. Potential health risks associated with exposure to synthetic fibers; 2. Sampling and analytical techniques for characterizing fiber exposures; 3. Industry efforts to promote safe work practices and use of appropriate controls; and 4. Strategies to develop and disseminate information and guidance on the safe handling of synthetic fiber products. The discussion frequently focused on universal concerns and strategies for addressing safe handling of synthetic fibers, and each panelist contributed a unique perspective for identifying the pertinent issues for this topic.
Synthetic fibers; Synthetic materials; Sampling methods; Analytical methods; Analytical processes; Work practices; Engineering controls; Exposure assessment; Risk analysis; Respirable dust; Fibrous dusts
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Synthetic fibers in the workplace: where less fiber is healthier.
Page last reviewed: July 9, 2021
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division