Isocyanate sampling and analysis

Isocyanates are highly reactive, low molecular weight chemicals that find extensive use in various industries. They are commonly employed in the manufacturing of foams, fibers, coatings, and elastomers, as well as in the automobile industry, autobody repair, and building insulation materials. While isocyanates offer many benefits, it is essential to understand and mitigate the associated risks and health hazards.

Isocyanate exposure poses significant risks to workers, primarily affecting the mucous membranes of the eyes, gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts and the skin. These chemicals can cause severe irritation and inflammation upon contact. Furthermore, isocyanates can sensitize workers, leading to potentially life-threatening asthma attacks upon subsequent exposure. Both respiratory and dermal exposures have been linked to sensitization.

Therefore, workers experiencing symptoms such as eye irritation, nasal congestion, throat discomfort, coughing, shortness of breath, or chest tightness should seek medical attention from a professional knowledgeable in work-related health issues.

Preventing exposure to isocyanates is paramount in eliminating associated health hazards. Implementing engineering controls, such as closed systems and ventilation, should be the primary method for minimizing isocyanate exposure in the workplace.

Additionally, worker isolation and the use of personal protective equipment, including respirators and protective clothing, are often necessary to prevent dermal exposures.

To effectively address the issue of isocyanate exposure, testing plays a vital role.

The key aspects of isocyanate testing:

  • Routes of Exposure: Isocyanates can be encountered through inhalation of dust, fumes, or mist, as well as through skin contact with solutions or solids. Understanding the potential routes of exposure is essential in determining the appropriate testing methods.
  • Air Sampling: Air sampling is a common technique used to assess isocyanate exposure levels. It involves using treated filters or impinger solutions, following the MDHS 25/4 method, at a flow rate of 1-2 litres per minute. This method enables the comparison of exposure levels against the EH40 exposure limit, as well as the determination of total isocyanate and individual monomer concentrations based on the ECD/UV ratio range of 0.6-1.7.
  • Exposure Limit: The EH40 8-hour Time-Weighted Average (TWA) exposure limit for isocyanates, excluding methyl isocyanate, is set at 0.02 mg/m3. Compliance with this limit is crucial to ensuring the health and safety of workers.
  • Reporting Limit and Analysis: The reporting limit for isocyanates, such as HDI, MDI, TDI monomers, and IPDI, is set at 0.02 µg. High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) is commonly employed for the analysis of isocyanate samples.

Sampling and testing services

IOM offers comprehensive isocyanate testing from a UKAS accredited laboratory. A rigorous standard which ensures the accuracy of results. Paired with an in-depth knowledge of the material and process our analysts offer a thorough understanding of the exposure in any environment.

Samples can either be sent to our laboratory or our highly qualified workplace protection team can attend sites and carry out monitoring of isocyanates should you not hold a current Home Office licence or relevant BOHS affiliations.

In conclusion, testing for isocyanate exposure is crucial in maintaining the occupational health and safety of workers. By identifying potential risks and ensuring effective control measures, testing plays a vital role in preventing occupational asthma and protecting the well-being of employees. Through regular monitoring and collaboration with expert laboratories, we can create safer working environments and reduce the long-term respiratory problems associated with isocyanate sensitization.

Should you require further information or assistance with isocyanate testing contact our team today. We are ready to support you in safeguarding the health and well-being of your workforce. Together, we can create a safer and healthier workplace environment.