OSHA and the American Chemistry Council announced a new alliance in September that will raise awareness of how workers are exposed to diisocyanates and promote safe practices for their use in the polyurethane industry. These are raw materials used to make polyurethane products, such as insulation, car seats, and foam mattresses, and respiratory and dermal exposures can result in irritation of the skin and mucous membranes, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing. More serious health effects include asthma and other lung problems, according to OSHA.
According to EPA, diisocyanates are well-known dermal and inhalation sensitizers in the workplace and have been documented to cause asthma and lung damage, but the ACC Center for the Polyurethanes Industry (CPI) says manufacturers, in partnership with downstream users, have implemented product stewardship activities that have contributed to a reduction in diisocyanate-related asthma cases, even as production rates of diisocyanates have increased.
The alliance calls for the creation of a web-based training program on the safe use and handling of chemicals and the potential routes of exposure for users. The partners will develop guidance on medical surveillance and clinical evaluation techniques for employers and workers using the chemicals, and their agreement calls for best practices seminars on health and safety procedures for OSHA, On-Site Consultation, and State Plan staffers.
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