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Assessment and Control of Exposures to Reactive Chemical Resins in Construction

Dhimiter Bello
UMass Lowell
Email: dhimiter_bello@uml.edu

Research Team: Susan Woskie (Co-PI), Anila Bello

Abstract:
Highly reactive chemicals such as epoxies and isocyanates are widely used in construction due to their excellent performance characteristics and high versatility. They are linked with allergic and irritant contact dermatitis and with occupational asthma (OA). Isocyanates are a leading cause of OA. Allergic contact dermatitis due to epoxies in construction is prevalent, with recent estimates > 25%. 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. The objective of this study is to identify tasks and conditions that result in elevated exposures to reactive resins in construction; as well as to develop integrated intervention approaches to minimize such exposures. The project will identify tasks and application conditions which produce higher reactive chemical exposures among construction workers using air, skin and biomarker measurements and field observations. The focus will be 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 will also evaluate 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 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 are identified, the project will introduce the controls to contractors and trade union partners, re-evaluate exposures as well as identify the incentives and barriers to implementation. Throughout the project, dissemination of results to partners, product manufacturers and trade unions will be incorporated.