Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-2008-0017-3095, evaluation of employees' chemical exposures while blending and repackaging glass beads for road markings, Weissker Manufacturing, Palestine, Texas.
On October 16, 2007, NIOSH received a confidential employee request for an HHE at Weissker Manufacturing (Weissker) in Palestine, Texas. Employees were concerned about exposures to lead, arsenic, formaldehyde, and dust while handling reflective glass beads. Health problems listed on the request and attributed to the dust from the glass beads included glassy eyes, sore throat, body aches, and flu-like symptoms. Weissker imported the glass beads in Super SackŪ containers (2200-pound capacity fabric bags) from Russia and China and repackaged the beads for resale. Both the Chinese and Russian glass beads had a silane coating. Employees complained about a fish-like odor emitted from the Chinese beads when they were wet. The odor may have come from the amines in the glass beads' coating. Weissker is no longer purchasing beads from China due to employees' health concerns. At the time of this evaluation six employees at Weissker worked one 8-hour shift. During our site visit on January 22-24, 2008, we observed the blending and repackaging process, reviewed the MSDSs for the glass beads, and interviewed employees. We also collected PBZ air samples for respirable dust, crystalline silica, elements (including arsenic and lead), and formaldehyde and GA air samples for total dust, formaldehyde, and elements. We analyzed bulk samples of glass beads for elements, VOCs, and size. We took wipe samples from employees' hands and work surfaces and had them analyzed for elements. Our review of the OSHA 300 Logs of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses revealed that an employee was injured in June 2007, when his arm was trapped between a metal bin and a Super Sack while he was emptying it. All air sampling results were below applicable OELs. No VOCs were detected in the bulk samples of glass beads. Elements were either not detected or were detected at very low concentrations. Particle size analysis of the glass beads revealed that they were too large to be deposited in the respiratory tract or the lungs. We measured very low levels of elements on employees' hands, on work surfaces, and on the lunchroom table. We conducted confidential medical interviews with five employees; some reported eye and throat irritation. We recommend that employees wear safety glasses or goggles to prevent glass beads from getting in their eyes and that they wash their hands before eating or touching their face. We also recommend that employees not place their arms underneath the Super Sack containers when they are being emptied to prevent hand and arm injuries.