Asthma Incidence Among Polyurethane Foam Manufacturing Workers
Proves to be Significantly Below General Adult Population’s
Report from Two Industry Studies Spans 24-Year Period
(Loudon, TENNESSEE) -- February 28, 2013 -- An industry report on surveys spanning 24 years of foam manufacturing plant health and safety records found incidences of occupational asthma to be lower among workers in flexible polyurethane foam plants than among the general adult population, suggesting that workers in surveyed plants were well-protected from chemical exposure by modern chemical exposure control technologies and training.
The report combines data from 1988-2007 and 2008-2011 surveys among manufacturing plants representing more than 90 percent of the country’s production of flexible polyurethane foam. The survey was sponsored by the Polyurethane Foam Association with data collected and analyzed by Washington, D.C.-based law firm, McIntyre & Lemon, PLLC.
The survey was prompted by a lack of data on foam plant worker sensitivity and exposure to disocyanates, a raw material used in the production of flexible polyurethane foam. The 2008 survey provided historical data on more than 1,300 workers in 23 manufacturing sites; the 2012 update polled 1,037 workers in 38 plants.
The combined results are featured in a paper entitled, A Survey of the Incidence of Occupational Asthma among Flexible Polyurethane Foam Slabstock Plants. The paper emphasizes that incidences of self-reported occupational asthma among workers were extremely rare: approximately 1 percent of current production workers and a maximum of 2 percent of workers over the past 24 years. The results suggested that a myriad of workplace controls, including aggressive ventilation systems, personal protection equipment (PPE), shut-off controls, stack engineering and scrubbers, workplace and personnel monitoring, and risk-management training, have proven to be adequate and effective in protecting those working around disocyanates in the surveyed plants.
“We are pleased to have up-to-date, definitive data from multiple plant locations and differing labor environments spanning nearly two-and-a-half decades,” said Bob Luedeka, PFA’s executive director. “The results reflect the effectiveness of our industry’s safety measures and historical dedication to providing a clean-air environment for our workers.”
Presented at a Polyurethane Foam Association Technical Program, copies of the presentation are available in the literature section (under technical proceedings) of the Polyurethane Foam Association website at www.pfa.org.