Are your employees at risk of isocyanate exposure?

OSHA has implemented a National Emphasis Program (NEP) to raise awareness of the dangers associated with isocyanate exposure.

Isocyanates are hazardous chemicals that are often found in activities using paints, foam insulation, polyurethane, surface coatings, rubber, and adhesives.

They are powerful irritants to the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, and throat. Hazardous health effects associated with occupational exposure to isocyanates include irritation of the skin and mucous membranes, hypersensitivity pneumotitis (inflammation in the lungs), and chest tightness.  A more serious hazardous health effect resulting from exposure to isocyanates is occupational asthma. Occupational asthma is an illness that can make it difficult to breath and causes chest tightness, wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. It is frequently serious and can be fatal. Isocyanates also include compounds that are classified as potential human carcinogens and have been known to cause cancer in animals.

Because of isocyanate’s toxic characteristics, it is very important that employee exposure to isocyanates is minimized. Facilities should conduct an inspection determining where isocyanates accumulate and how they are spread throughout the facility. An inspection should consist of two primary aspects: Air sampling and wipe sampling. Along with these quantitative inspections, facility activities should also be monitored to determine how isocyanates are spread throughout the facility. 

If isocyanates are present at the facility, employees should be notified of the results and the facility should work to implement controls to prevent exposure, such as installing ventilation to remove isocyanates or requiring employees to wear suitable PPE to prevent isocyanate exposure. The facility can also incorporate surface and/or skin safe decontamination solutions into their routine janitorial regimens. These solutions are developed to completely eliminate isocyanates from surfaces or the skin. High traffic areas where isocyanates may be easily spread such as door handles or water fountains may be cleaned using the surface decontamination solution on a regular basis. Additionally, employees can wash their hands using the skin-safe decontamination solution to eliminate isocyanates that may be on their skin after working with hazardous materials.

Contact CTI for more information on how to address your employees’ isocyanate exposure. Call 770-263-6330 or email