Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-2003-0248-2940, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Gainesville, Florida.
On January 20, 2004, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) investigators conducted a site visit at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) facility in Gainesville, FL. The site visit was conducted in response to a management request for a health hazard evaluation (HHE) to assess worker exposure to ammonium perfluorooctanoate (APFO), a component in a material (Fluon) used in the Biological Control Rearing Facility (BCRF). No health problems were reported; however, employees were concerned because of recent media reports regarding environmental and biological persistence of this material. Fire ants are imported pests that are thriving in southern U.S. The BCRF employees cultivate fire ants to raise phorid flies, the ants' natural predator. The process includes the use of Fluon to coat holding trays for containing imported fire ants. Fluon is the only material that, when applied and dried, offers such low resistance that the ants cannot climb out of the containers. Because Fluon degrades with time, it must be routinely reapplied to the containers. Employees were concerned about potential exposure to APFO during the application process and safe handling procedures when using Fluon. The application process takes place outdoors behind the BCRF. Technicians wear latex gloves when applying the material to trays; no other protective equipment is worn. Twenty-four surface samples for APFO analysis were collected during the survey. Although APFO was detected, the surface sample results did not indicate widespread contamination of APFO throughout the BCRF. APFO was detected in 6 samples: Imported Fire Ant (IFA) Trailer - center of worktable and left side of sink; Attack Room 1 - rim of brooding cup; IFA Workroom - Fluon work cart handles; FAST building, refrigerator #2 (not for food consumption)- inside floor and outside door handle. NIOSH investigators have not determined the hazard associated with exposure to APFO at the FDACS. However, the surface sampling results did not show substantial contamination of APFO throughout the BCRF, thus reducing exposure to APFO. Because APFO was detected in some areas, additional cleaning of surfaces such as worktables, sinks, floors, and handles is warranted. All work surfaces should be cleaned using wet-methods (e.g. damp cloth). Objects coated with Fluon, such as trays, sieves, and brooding cups, should only be handled with gloves. Gloves worn during Fluon application and when handling Fluon coated objects should be properly discarded after application and before touching other surfaces. Food and beverage consumption should not take place in areas where Fluon is handled or applied. Additional recommendations to improve housekeeping and work practices are included in the Recommendations section of this report.