About Isocyanate Detection & SafeAir® Aromatic Isocyanates Badges
How Are Isocyanates Used?
Isocyanates are widely used in industry. The two most common forms are toluene diisocyanate (TDI) and methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI), which are both aromatic isocyanates. TDI is used primarily to make flexible polyurethane foam (also known as PU foam), while MDI is used to make flexible or rigid polyurethane foam, elastomers, coatings, sealants and adhesives. MDI can be used in its pure form or polymeric form (PMDI). Worker exposure to isocyanates can be hazardous. TDI and MDI detection capability should be in place whenever these chemicals are in production or use.
Tell Me More About Polyurethane
Polyurethane is made by reacting an isocyanate such as MDI or TDI with a polyol (an alcohol with multiple hydroxyl groups). Foam, the most common form of polyurethane, is used in many industries including construction and the manufacturing of insulation, refrigeration, automobiles, mattresses, packaging and furniture. In order to meet the needs of a wide variety of applications, PU foam can be rigid, semi-rigid, flexible or spray-on. While the most common form of polyurethane is foam, it is also used to make specialty coatings, adhesives, sealants and elastomers. They are used in many applications including spray-on protective coatings (e.g. bed-liners for trucks) and the manufacturing of fibers, footwear, sporting products, and car parts. While the reaction of isocyanates with polyols is common and well-understood, it can also present dangers. Worker exposure to TDI or MDI should be monitored and minimized.
What Are The Health Effects Of Isocyanates?
Exposure to isocyanates can cause occupational asthma, irritation of the skin, eyes, nose and throat, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, chest tightness and cancer. Deaths have occurred from high dose exposures to isocyanates. While the primary isocyanate exposure route is inhalation, skin exposure should also be avoided. Workers in many industries are at risk of exposure to aromatic isocyanates such as MDI and TDI. Given the health effects, all facilities using isocyanates should have an isocyanate safety program which includes proper engineering procedures, protective equipment, and isocyanate monitoring.
How Are OSHA And Industry Involved With Isocyanate Safety?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the United States has implemented a National Emphasis Program to protect workers from the serious health effects from occupational exposure to isocyanates, such and TDI and MDI. OSHA develops national emphasis programs to focus outreach efforts and inspections on specific hazards in an industry. Through this National Emphasis Program, OSHA is focusing on workplaces that use isocyanate compounds in an effort to reduce occupational illnesses and deaths. Such workplaces often utilize both a stationary isocyanate monitor for wide-area isocyanate monitoring, and isocyanate monitoring badges for individual isocyanate monitoring. For instance, a facility which utilizes MDI will use a stationary MDI monitor as well as MDI monitoring badges.
Many isocyanate producers are members of the International Isocyanate Institute (III). The III website indicates that the principal aim of the Institute is to promote the safe handling of MDI and TDI, with respect to the workplace, the community and the environment.
Many isocyanate producers recommend that employees with exposure potential should wear TDI badges and/or MDI badges as part of a comprehensive isocyanates monitoring program. Such badges are known as isocyanate detection badges, isocyanate indicator badges or isocyanate monitoring badges. Morphix has a strong relationship with the isocyanate industry, and has been contracted in the past to perform environmental and exposure testing for numerous industry participants. Many companies that make and use isocyanates throughout the world use SafeAir Aromatic Isocyanates indicator badges for workers in their production facilities.
What Does An Isocyanate Detection Badge Do?
The SafeAir Aromatic Isocyanates badge (part number 382001) detects both TDI and MDI at parts per billion (ppb) levels. A worker wears this easy-to-use badge in the breathing zone (e.g. clipped to a shirt collar) in order to monitor for aromatic isocyanates (i.e. TDI and MDI). The detection badge can also be used to monitor for TDI or MDI leaks by hanging the badge near a suspect area. A change in color on the badge, in the shape of an exclamation mark, alerts the user to exposure to an aromatic isocyanate. Morphix also offers a SafeAir TDI color comparator (part number 383005), which can be used to read exposure dose levels by matching the color on the isocyanate monitoring badge to the color in the TDI comparator. The SafeAir badge and comparator system provides a cost-effective means of isocyanate detection. They help ensure that workers are aware of their exposure to aromatic isocyanates.
For more technical and use information, see the SafeAir Aromatic Isocyanates badge Operating Instructions.