Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-2003-0016-2959, Owens-Illinois, Lapel, Indiana.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) received a request for a health hazard evaluation (HHE) at the Owens-Illinois (OI) plant in Lapel, Indiana. The HHE request was submitted by the Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics and Allied Workers International Union (GMP) because a worker at the plant had become ill, and it was perceived that the illness was due to exposure to the recently introduced compound monobutyltin trichloride (MBTC), brought into the plant as a hot end coating agent. Between February and June 2003, NIOSH personnel made three site visits to the OI facility. On February 3, 2003, an opening conference was held between NIOSH, OI management, GMP Local 207, and GMP International representatives. The opening conference was followed by a walk-through, confidential employee interviews, and industrial hygiene sampling of surfaces for tin and MBTC. Medical records were reviewed for three individuals who reported symptoms possibly related to MBTC exposure. On March 27, 2003, additional wipe samples were collected for MBTC and a ventilation survey of the vapor deposition hoods (VDHs) was conducted. Between June 23-30, 2003, environmental sampling for tin, MBTC, and hydrochloric acid (HCl) and biological monitoring for tin and MBTC in urine was conducted with two groups of workers: hot end and maintenance workers who have the highest potential for exposure and the office and shipping workers who have the lowest potential for exposures to tin and MBTC. Several employees reported that MBTC has a strong odor, will "take your breath away," and irritates or burns the skin upon contact. NIOSH review of the medical records failed to document an association of those three employees' symptoms with MBTC exposure. Two were not consistent with reported health effects of organotins. One had medical problems that could have been associated with occupational exposures; this individual also had alternative explanations for the symptoms and lack of objective evidence to distinguish the etiology. All (5/5) surfaces sampled for tin were positive. MBTC was detected in 13/13 surfaces sampled in the hot end, in 1/5 from the office, and 0/10 in the cold end, maintenance department, and shipping. Personal breathing zone (PBZ) HCL concentrations ranged from non-detect (ND) to 0.17 milligram per cubic meter (mg/m3) while general area concentrations ranged from ND to 1.8 mg/m3. The ventilation survey and observations of work practices identified a deficiency in controls during the cleaning and maintenance of the VDH and baghouse. PBZ air concentrations of tin and MBTC for office and shipping personnel were all ND or trace while concentrations for the hot end and maintenance workers ranged from trace to 4.6 mg/m3 for tin and ND to 1.5 mg/m3 for MBTC. Hand wipe concentrations of MBTC from the office and shipping workers ranged from ND to 0.13 milligram per wipe (mg/wipe), while hot end and maintenance workers ranged from ND to 4.0 mg/wipe. Hot end and maintenance workers' urinary tin concentrations ranged from ND to 76 micrograms per gram creatinine (microg/g creatinine) while office and shipping workers' concentrations ranged from ND to 8.0 microg/g creatinine. Hot end and maintenance workers' urinary MBTC concentrations ranged from ND to 51 microg/g creatinine, while office and shipping workers' concentrations were all below the detection limit. Based on surface wipes and PBZ air sampling, MBTC and tin are present in the work environment from the hot end coating process despite the use of a VDH. One tin and two MBTC air samples exceeded the NIOSH Recommended Exposure Limit (REL), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL), and the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienist (ACGIH) Threshold Limit Value (TLV) for both tin and organic tin, 2 and 0.1 mg/m3 (as Sn) respectively. All three samples were collected on days work was performed in the baghouse. Forty-five percent of hot end and maintenance workers had at least one urinary tin concentration above levels typically found in the general population. Hot end and maintenance workers are exposed to MBTC and tin at work and absorb and excrete them in their urine. Recommendations are provided in this report to control and decrease worker exposure until more is known about the health effects of MBTC.