Isocyanates

Isocyanates

Hazard Overview

Hazard Overview

What are isocyanates?

Isocyanates are a group of highly reactive, low molecular weight compounds used in the production of urethane and polyurethane compounds, respectively. Isocyanates are the raw materials that make up all polyurethane products. Jobs that may involve exposure to isocyanates include painting, foam-blowing, and the manufacture of many polyurethane products, such as chemicals, polyurethane foam, insulation materials, surface coatings, car seats, furniture, foam mattresses, under-carpet padding, packaging materials, shoes, laminated fabrics, polyurethane rubber, and adhesives, and during the thermal degradation of polyurethane products.

Unless otherwise specified, the term "isocyanate" will be used interchangeably to include diisocyanates.

What are the hazards associated with isocyanates?

The concern with occupational exposure to isocyanates arises from the health effects, which include irritation of skin and mucous membranes, chest tightness, and difficult breathing. Isocyanates include compounds classified as potential human carcinogens and known to cause cancer in animals. However, the main effects due to hazardous exposures are occupational asthma and other lung problems, as well as irritation of the eyes, nose, throat and skin.

 

Solutions

Solutions

What can I do to protect myself?

Employees working with isocyanate-containing materials should always work in a well ventilated area and, whenever possible, use local exhaust ventilation. When this is not feasible, the employer must provide the appropriate type of respiratory protection in conjunction with an effective respiratory protection program. In addition, be sure to wear the appropriate type of gloves to prevent absorption of isocyanates into the skin.

What resources are available to assist employers?

Other relevant information pertaining to hazard communicationpersonal protective equipment  and respiratory protection can be found on the applicable A-Z topics page. In addition, the NCDOL Library offers free safety and health videos and related research assistance on consensus standards (i.e., ANSI, NFPA, NEC). The education, training and technical assistance bureau provides free online safety and health training and outreach services (i.e., speaker's bureau requests, safety booths) upon request.

Regulations

Regulations

Which standards apply?

OSH has adopted the following standards for occupational exposure to isocyanates in North Carolina:

 

Learn More

Learn More

Where can I learn more?

If you would like to receive interpretive guidance on this or any other OSH standard or topic, you can submit your questions using the Ask OSH web form, by e-mail to ask.osh@labor.nc.gov or by calling 919-807-2875.