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OSHA announces program to protect workers from isocyanate exposure

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced a new national emphasis program (NEP) to protect workers from serious health effects caused by occupational exposure to isocyanates.

OSHA develops NEPs to focus outreach efforts and inspections on specific hazards in an industry for a three-year period. Through this NEP, OSHA will make efforts to reduce occupational illnesses and deaths by focusing on workplaces in general, construction and maritime industries that use isocyanate compounds.

Isocyanates are chemicals used in materials such as paints, varnishes, auto body repair and building insulation and can cause occupational asthma; irritation of the skin, eyes, nose and throat; and cancer. Deaths have occurred because of asthma and hypersensitivity pneumonitis from isocyanate exposure. Respiratory illnesses also can be caused by isocyanate exposure to the skin. Jobs that involve exposure to isocyanates include spray-on polyurethane manufacturing of products such as mattresses and car seats, as well as protective coatings for truck beds, boats and decks.

"Workers exposed to isocyanates can suffer debilitating health problems for months or even years after exposure," says David Michaels, OSHA's assistant secretary of labor. "Through this program, OSHA will strengthen protections for workers exposed to isocyanates."

OSHA's Web page regarding isocyanates provides additional information about recognizing potential hazards, as well as OSHA standards that address isocyanates in the general, construction and maritime industries. For more information, click here.

6/27/2013



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