Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-2001-0059-2861, Boat America Corporation, Alexandria, Virginia.
In November 2000, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) received a confidential employee request for a health hazard evaluation (HHE) at the Boat America Corporation in Alexandria, Virginia. The request was prompted by health concerns, including severe nosebleeds, respiratory irritation, eye irritation, headaches, and nausea, suspected to be caused by the handling of the vinyl material used in the boat graphics department. On February 23, 2001, NIOSH investigators conducted an environmental evaluation which included two full-shift personal breathing-zone (PBZ) air samples to assess worker exposure to toluene and ethyl acrylate. Six full-shift area air samples were also collected for volatile organic compounds (VOCs), toluene, and ethyl acrylate. Measurements of occupant comfort indicators (temperature, carbon dioxide [CO2], and relative humidity [RH]) were also collected. In addition, qualitative ventilation measurements were performed to determine airflow patterns. The medical evaluation consisted of confidential employee interviews and a review of OSHA 200 injury and illness logs and medical records. The full-shift PBZ samples revealed 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) toluene concentrations of 0.04 and 0.05 parts per million (ppm). The full-shift area samples detected 8-hour TWA toluene concentrations ranging from 0.04 to 0.07 ppm. None of the air samples detected ethyl acrylate. All toluene concentrations were well below the most stringent occupational exposure criteria of 50 ppm. The predominant VOCs detected, toluene, ethyl hexyl acetate, and ethyl hexyl acrylate, were present in extremely low levels. Temperatures were generally within the winter range of 68 -74 F recommended by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), but RH measurements were below the ASHRAE recommended range of 30% - 60%. All CO2 measurements exceeded 800 ppm, a level indicating an inadequate amount of supplied outdoor air to the work area. The employees interviewed (3 current, 1 former) all reported nosebleeds and headaches of varying intensity; one employee required an emergency department visit to control the bleeding. A review of the health concerns of all four employees was not found to be consistent with exposures at this work site. NIOSH investigators conclude that a health hazard was not present in the boat graphics department at the time of the site visit. There was no evidence that the health problems reported by employees were related to an exposure unique in the work environment. Recommendations addressing the low RH levels and elevated CO2 concentrations are included in the report.