Health hazard evaluation report: HETA 2003-0171-2925, PCC Schlosser, Redmond, Oregon.
In February 2003, employees at PCC Schlosser, a titanium investment casting plant in Redmond, Oregon, sent the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) a confidential request for a health hazard evaluation (HHE) to investigate exposures to metals in their workplace. Employees in the finishing area reported that liver and kidney failure or bad liver function levels and digestive tract problems were related to workplace exposures to metals including titanium, antimony, vanadium, and aluminum. Employees reported that they sent hair samples to a private laboratory for analysis and results indicated the presence of a variety of metals that employees believed were related to occupational exposures. Some employees reported that medical tests by their physicians also suggested they were overexposed to certain metals in their workplace. Full-shift, personal breathing sampling was conducted on nine employees working in the finishing and cut-off areas of the plant. Samples were collected for respirable dust (particulates not otherwise regulated), airborne elements and vanadium pentoxide wipe samples were collected on hands and surfaces. Medical records provided by one employee and hair analysis reports provided by five employees were reviewed. Employee job tasks included torch cutting, operating a pneumatic hammer and a water cannon, and finishing cast parts using rotary hand tools. The majority of exposures measured during this HHE were below Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) permissible exposure limits (PELs), but three samples exceeded these limits. One air sample collected in the pneumatic hammer area exceeded the PEL for yttrium, and two samples (both collected from the same employee while torch cutting) exceeded Oregon OSHA's PELs for respirable dusts and respirable vanadium pentoxide. Respirable dust exposures ranged from 0.2 milligrams per cubic meter of air (mg/m 3 ) to 5.9 mg/m3 , compared to the PEL of 5 mg/m3 . Yttrium exposures ranged up to 1.14 mg/m 3 , compared to the PEL of 1 mg/m3 . Respirable vanadium pentoxide exposures ranged up 0.123 mg/m3 , compared to the PEL of 0.05 mg/m3 . The workplace exposures that were found to exceed the Oregon OSHA PELS were related to lack of effective ventilation controls in the cut-off area. The medical record provided by one employee showed nonspecific liver function abnormalities that could not be attributed to workplace exposures. The five hair analysis reports were not conclusive because elemental hair analysis is not currently considered to be a standard medical test and the results of such testing cannot be directly related to specific exposures. Two PCC Schlosser employees working in the cut-off area of the plant had workplace exposures to respirable dusts, respirable vanadium pentoxide, and to the element yttrium in excess of the Oregon OSHA PELs. Recommendations are included in this report to control employee exposures by installing effective local exhaust ventilation to control exposures to torch fume (the source of the respirable dust and vanadium pentoxide) at the cut-off area, and to yttrium at the pneumatic hammer station. Until effective engineering controls are in place, employees working in the cut-off area should continue to wear N-95 or greater efficiency (N-99 or N-100) filtering face-piece respirators or elastomeric half-face respirators with P-100 cartridges to protect them against exposures to torch fume and metal-containing dusts. PCC Schlosser management should insure that employees do not have facial hair that comes in contact with the sealing surface of the respirator. Employees should carefully wash their hands before breaks and lunch and before leaving the plant to remove metal dusts that may be on their hands.
Region-9; Hazards-Confirmed; Metal-dusts; Respirable-dust; Respiratory-protective-equipment; Respiratory-protection; Respirators; Aluminum-compounds; Vanadium-dust; Vanadium-compounds; Antimony-compounds; Ventilation; Ventilation-systems; Gastrointestinal-system-disorders; Digestive-system; Liver-disorders; Kidney-disorders