Polymer fume fever at an industrial valve manufacturer.
Echt A; Bresler F; Hughes R; Hayden C
American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition, May 19-23, 1997, Dallas, Texas. Fairfax, VA: American Industrial Hygiene Association, 1997 May; :76
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) investigators performed an evaluation at a plant where fluorocarbon polymer-lined valves were produced following a management request concerning polymer fume fever. Polymer fume fever has been described as shaking chills, muscle pain, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and a feeling of ill health, with or without fever, which occurs near the end or soon after a work shift; symptoms completely resolve within 24 hours. The principle concerns in occupational exposure to the decomposition products of fluorocarbon polymers is their potential for causing polymer fume fever and respiratory tract injury. Exposure to the decomposition products of fluorocarbon polymer results from inhalation of fluorocarbon polymer, or from inhalation of a single or several decomposition products. Confidential health interviews were conducted with 11 employees in the lined-valve production area. The interviews assessed individual practices regarding smoking and eating at work and evaluated the occurrence of polymer fume fever over the 2 years preceding the survey. The 2-year cutoff was chosen because of process and ventilation changes 2 years before the evaluation. Ten of 11 employees interviewed reported symptoms associated with polymer fume fever. Five of these 10 symptomatic employees had polymer fume fever episodes during the 2 years preceding the survey, 4 of whom reported episodes the past year. Nine personal breathing zone (PBZ) and five general area (GA) air samples were collected for fluorides using NIOSH Method 7902. Five of nine PBZ samples had detectable hydrogen fluoride, with 8-hour TWA concentrations of 0.005 ppm to 0.010 ppm. Eight hour TWA concentrations of HF in the GA samples ranged from 0.004 ppm to 0.008 ppm. The investigators determined that a health hazard existed from exposure to fluorocarbon polymer decomposition products and recommended ventilation changes, including enclosing extrusion presses; and practice changes such as prohibiting smoking in the work area.
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