14th June 2018

What Are Isocyanates?

Before we can discuss isocyanates testing, we must first ask, what are isocyanates? In short, isocyanates are a family of highly reactive, low molecular weight chemicals.

Isocyanates are commonly used within the construction or manufacturing of flexible or rigid foams, fibers, coatings (including paints and varnishes) and elastomers. Isocyanates are also being  increasingly used within the automobile industry with their uses most prevalent within autobody repair and also the materials used for building insulation. Many spray-on polyurethane products also contain isocyanates that have been developed for a wide range of retail, commercial, and industrial uses. These are typically used to protect cement, wood, fiberglass, steel and aluminum surfaces commonly found on all manner of motor vehicles including protective coatings for truck beds, trailers, boats, foundations, and decks.

When exposed to them they can be powerful irritants to the mucous membranes within the eyes, gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts. Direct exposure can leave the skin inflamed and isocyanates can sensitize workers. Once sensituzed workers may become prone to experiencing severe asthma attacks from continued exposure. It’s believed that both respiratory and skin exposure could lead to sensitization. Death from severe asthma has been reported, however is uncommon. Workers who have been potentially exposed to isocyanates and experience constant or recurring eye irritation, nasal congestion, sore throats, cold or flu-like symptoms, have a cough, suffer from shortness of breath and wheezing or a tightness in their chest should seek immediate advice from an occupational health specialist.

Preventing isocyanates exposure is critical to eliminating the health hazard that they pose. Putting control measures in place, such as proper ventilation within working areas, should help you minimize isocyanates exposure. Other control measures which could be implemented include worker isolation or the correct usage use of personal protective equipment and clothing to prevent dermal exposures. Recognizing the symptoms of sensitization early and acting swiftly to limit or remove the risk of exposure is essential if you wish to reduce the risk of long-term or permanent respiratory problems for your workers who have become sensitized.

What Happens During An Isocyanates Test?

Isocyanates testing or isocyanates testing is very easy to administer. Most companies that conduct isocyanates testing (including ourselves!) will send you the testing kits and paperwork (instructions, consent forms etc) and all you need to do is collect samples (urine) from those who may be affected and return the sample. Once returned, the sample will be sent for laboratory testing and the results will be provided to the company who in turn will communicate these results to yourselves and store them with any other health surveillance records they may have for your business or the individuals.

Urinalaysis is used to assess exposure by the measurement of isocyanates breakdown products that can be found within the urine samples. The results measure how much isocyanates enter the body, rather than what was present within the work environment, Unfortunately, the results don’t inform you of the health related aspects but simply how much an individual has already been exposed. Once you have the results, you can then put the required control measures in place to protect the long term health of your employees. Ideally, this should be conducted annually.

How Can I Book Isocyantes Testing For My Staff?

To book your next Isocyanates test, simply call our team today on 0845 862 8020 or complete the contact form and one of our team will be in touch with you shortly.


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