Assessment and Control of Exposures to Reactive Chemical Resins in Construction (Completed – 2014-2019)
Susan Woskie (Co-PI), Anila Bello
Highly reactive chemicals such as epoxies and isocyanates are widely used in construction due to their excellent performance characteristics and high versatility. They are also linked with allergic and irritant contact dermatitis, and isocyanates are a leading cause occupational asthma (OA). Allergic contact dermatitis due to epoxies in construction is prevalent, with recent estimates exceeding 25 percent. Major research gaps exist in identifying the tasks that result in exposures or the effectiveness of engineering controls, personal protective equipment, and targeted health and safety programs on reducing exposures in construction tasks involving reactive chemical systems. This study identified tasks and conditions that resulted in elevated exposures to reactive resins in construction, as well as developing integrated intervention approaches to minimize such exposures. The project also identified tasks and application conditions which produce higher reactive chemical exposures among construction workers using air, skin and biomarker measurements and field observations. The focus was on epoxies and isocyanates, which are used as coatings for steel building exteriors and bridges; interior floor and wall coatings for commercial buildings; spray foams for insulation and roofing; resins used for caulks, glues and mortars; and waterproofing coatings. The project evaluated control options for these reactive chemical exposures by partnering with local union training centers and product training centers to evaluate the effectiveness of a variety of glove and coverall materials for protection from dermal exposures and partnering with NIOSH’s Division of Applied Research and Technology (DART) Engineering and Physical Hazards Branch (EPHB) to evaluate dermal and airborne exposures produced by alternative application methods and ventilation for exposure reduction in controlled field experiments. Once effective control approaches were identified, the project introduced the controls to contractors and trade union partners, re-evaluated exposures as well as identified the incentives and barriers to implementation. Throughout the project, there was dissemination of results to partners, product manufacturers and trade unions.