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workers, building, architect

NORA Manufacturing Sector Strategic Goals

R019375 - 021H: Isocyanate Skin and Air Exposure: Assessment and Control (9375)

Start Date: 9/1/2009
End Date: 8/31/2013

Principal Investigator (PI)
Name: Linda Frederick
Organization: NIOSH
Sub-Unit: Office of Extramural Projects
Funded By: NIOSH

Primary Goal Addressed

Secondary Goal Addressed


Attributed to Manufacturing


Project Description

Short Summary

"Isocyanates, widely used chemicals essential to the production of numerous polyurethane foams and other products, remain a leading cause of occupational asthma. Research and controls to-date have focused largely on airborne exposures. Despite reduced air levels exposed workers continue to develop isocyanate asthma.

Recent studies suggest that isocyanate skin exposures, which are difficult to monitor and control, may play an important role in the development of isocyanate asthma. This project will be a field intervention study aimed at assessing the extent and health impact of skin exposures to isocyanates in a polyurethane coating factory and

also identifying effective strategies to reduce such exposures. The findings should be relevant to the millions of workers who produce and use polyurethane products."


"This is the second revision of a RO1 proposal to investigate isocyanate skin and air exposures in an MDI fabric coating factory and implement a field intervention program to reduce isocyanate skin exposures. Reactive isocyanates, widely used as the essential cross-linker for producing polyurethane, have been a leading cause of occupational asthma for over 50 years. Until recently it has been presumed that the respiratory tract is the key route of isocyanate exposure, with clinical practice, research and prevention to-date focused almost exclusively on airborne exposures. There is growing evidence that isocyanate skin exposure can contribute to the development of isocyanate asthma. Despite reduced respiratory isocyanate exposures, isocyanate asthma continues to occur, commonly in work environments where measured airborne levels are below regulatory standards, and also where there is opportunity for skin exposure.

This proposed project is a field intervention study aimed at assessing and reducing isocyanate exposures in an MDI polyurethane fabric coating plant employing approximately 100 workers. A recent health survey at this plant showed a high prevalence of sensitization to MDI, with MDI IgG detected in over 1/3 of all

workers, despite largely non-detectable MDI air levels. The Specific Aims will be to:

Aim 1) Characterize baseline individual worker MDI respiratory and skin exposures using an exposure algorithm based on quantitative air and skin sampling data and biomarkers of exposure

Aim 2) Characterize the health status of workers and markers of early disease

Aim 3) Design and implement an integrated intervention program to reduce isocyanate skin exposures

Aim 4) Evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention program

The study will involve an initial quantitative assessment of the worker´┐Żs respiratory and skin exposures, health status, and selected biomarkers. This will be followed by development and implementation of an integrated intervention program to reduce MDI skin exposures. The effectiveness of the intervention program will be evaluated by comparing work practices, MDI exposures, and relevant biomarkers before and after the intervention. The findings should substantially extend our knowledge concerning isocyanate skin exposure and identify effective strategies to reduce such exposures. The findings should be relevant to the growing number of end-use MDI polyurethane work settings."

Mission Relevance

This project is relevant to the mission of the NIOSH Respiratory Research Cross- Sector Research Program to provide National and International leadership for the prevention of work-related respiratory diseases. The strategic goal of the Respiratory Diseases Research Program is to reduce and/or eliminate work related respiratory diseases through 1) Disease and hazard identification, recognition, and measurement (through surveillance, health hazards evaluations [HHEs], external reporting and internal examination of the literature),2) Disease assessment (through field studies and laboratory studies) and in relation to hazard exposure, 3) Disease prevention (through HHEs, dissemination, collaboration, intervention, control measures, secondary prevention) 4) development of tools and collaborations, and 5) Disease and hazard evaluation (self assessment - through surveillance).