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Environment

U.S. OSHA, chemical makers focus on diisocyanates

by Jeff Johnson, special to C&EN
September 25, 2017 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 95, ISSUE 38

The Trump Administration and a chemical industry group are forming an alliance with an intent to protect workers from exposure to diisocyanates, substances that are powerful irritants. The effort by the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration and the American Chemistry Council, an industry trade association, would raise awareness of safe practices for the use of these substances, which are raw materials for making polyurethane products such as insulation, car seats, and foam mattresses. Exposure to isocyanates can irritate the skin and mucous membranes, cause chest tightness and difficulty breathing, and lead to asthma and death. The joint effort calls for creation of a web-based training program on the safer use of these compounds. It will develop guidance on medical surveillance and clinical evaluation techniques for employers and workers using the chemicals. Some industrial health experts warn that the alliance, announced Sept. 14, fails to go far enough and particularly lacks a metric to determine whether the program is succeeding or should be modified as it is implemented.

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