Isocyanates are chemicals that can cause occupational asthma, irritation of the skin, eyes, nose and throat, and cancer. Deaths have occurred due to both asthma and hypersensitivity pneumonitis from isocyanates exposure. Respiratory illnesses also can be caused by isocyanates exposure to the skin.
A three-year focus
OSHA develops national emphasis programs to make the most of its strained budget by focusing outreach efforts and inspections on specific hazards in an industry for a three-year period.
Through the isocyanates NEP, the agency will scrutinize workplaces in general, construction and maritime industries that use isocyanate compounds in an effort to reduce occupational illnesses and deaths.
Isocyanates are used in materials including paints, varnishes, auto body repair, and building insulation. Jobs that involve exposure to isocyanates include spray-on polyurethane manufacturing, products such as mattresses and car seats and protective coatings for truck beds, boats, and decks.
Effects can go on for years
"Workers exposed to isocyanates can suffer debilitating health problems for months or even years after exposure," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels.
OSHA's Web page on Isocyanates provides additional information on recognizing potential hazards, as well as OSHA standards that address isocyanates in the general, construction and maritime industries.