Dangers Of Toxic Isocyanates - Is The Polyurethane Industry At Risk?
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Dangers Of Toxic Isocyanates  -  Is the Polyurethane Industry at Risk?

It's now a well known fact that the polyurethane industry has recently come under major scrutiny from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (aka OSHA) for its dangers of toxic isocyanates. Not only is OSHA increasing its scrutiny, but the Environmental Protection Agency (aka EPA) is also beginning to make strong recommendations for alternative solutions to conventional polyurethane.

The reason why there has become more scrutiny of the polyurethane industry is due in large part to a toxic substance called isocyanates. Isocyanates are chemical compounds with the isocyanate group NCO. These compounds react with other compounds containing alcohol groups to produce polyurethane polymers, which make up the components of polyurethane floor coatings, foams for insulation, various paints and a host of other utilities.

In society and in industry, polyurethane is one of the most ubiquitous materials around and can be found in cars seats, in packaging materials, in your bed, as floor coatings in the hospital or our schools, under the carpet, on our pipes that are used for plumbing, as foam to coat and protect pipes and many other applications. The problem is that all of these applications use conventional polyurethane, which contains toxic isocyanates.

The biggest danger is mostly to the workers who apply the polyurethane to the cars, floors, boats, pipes and other structures. During this application process, a worker must put on several precautionary items such as a gas mask, insulated jump suit and boots to protect themselves from exposure to the dangerous isocyanates. Even with these precautions, workers have been exposed and toxified to the point where OSHA has stepped in to regulate and offer new guidelines for workers over exposure to toxic isocyanates in polyurethane.

Some of the workers who apply polyurethane have reported various health challenges including coughing, asthma, ear nose and throat irritation, nausea, vomiting and even death. Not long ago the Bhopal Disaster in India killed over 15,000 people in an industrial plant that leaked toxic isocyanates to the workers and the surrounding village.

For this reason it is recommended by the EPA and OSHA to seek out green polyurethane solutions for industrial floor coatings, foam coatings, paints and all other typical polyurethane applications. The many dangers of toxic isocyanates are just starting to surface in the wake of many worker health complications and there is much to be discovered about the implications of toxic isocyanates in the polyurethane industry. The best solution is to commit to education and further investigation to more green alternatives as the toxic polyurethane industry begins to shed its dark shadow.


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