Stay Safe as Demand Grows: Manufacturers of Polyurethanes Need to Monitor Hidden Hazards of Processing TDI

CL1Polyurethanes seem to be everywhere today. They literally surround us in our everyday lives. The American Chemistry Council says, “It does not matter where you look, you are likely to find polyurethanes. Polyurethanes can be a found in mattresses, couches, insulation, liquid coatings and paints, tough elastomers such as roller blade wheels, soft flexible foam toys, some elastic fibers, and many other places and applications.”

There doesn’t seem to be an industry that isn’t somehow involved with polyurethanes at some level. Its applications and uses are varied and extensive, including these examples:

  • Upholstered furniture contains flexible foam.
  • Rigid foam is used as insulation in the walls and roofs of new construction.
  • Medical devices and footwear include thermoplastic polyurethane.
  • Adhesives, sealants, coatings, elastomers and other polyurethanes are used in just about every industry, including the automotive industry: Just look at the interior of your car, as an up-close-and-personal example.

While we can’t imagine our world today without polyurethanes, we need to face the realities and hazards associated with the manufacturing of polyurethanes. Polyurethanes are formed through the processing of TDI (toluene diisocyanate). The American Chemistry Council defines diisocyanates as “a family of chemical building blocks mainly used to make a wide range of polyurethane (PU) products.” According to the U.S. EPA, working with TDI can be hazardous for people, if the process is not properly monitored.

Manufacturers need to be careful: As manufacturing rebounds, we can expect a greater demand for the production of polyurethanes. DOD Technologies offers solutions to help protect workers and ensure safety at manufacturing facilities where TDI is used. More specifically, our ChemLogic 1 Single Point Continuous Monitor is being used at manufacturing facilities where they’re processing TDI to form polyurethanes. This is just one example of what we offer. Our innovative products, services and systems at DOD Technologies protect, support and save lives. We’d be happy to tell you more – and to help you find the perfect solution to meet your needs and to keep your manufacturing operations as safe as possible.


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Manufacturing Day is all about educating our youth

Manufacturing is continuously growing and evolving, and is essentially becoming a stronger career choice for students entering the next generation of the workforce. On October 4th, it is officially “Manufacturing Day!” The day is quickly approaching, and was designed to encourage industry professionals to network, gain new business connections, and educate the next generation of workers in a way that will increase industry awareness and focus on our youth and emerging technologies.

In many cases, those coming from a non-manufacturing background have been under the impression that manufacturing jobs are disappearing due to the increase of automation/ robotic equipment, and that all of the skilled labor is being sent overseas. That is not the case, anymore. Manufacturing Day will help to “address those common misperceptions, and gives manufacturers an opportunity to open their doors and show, in a coordinated effort, what manufacturing is — and what it isn’t.”

Manufacturing today is not what it used to be. The costs associated with wage differentials in China and the USA have decreased dramatically – and the popularity of sending jobs overseas is starting to cease. In addition to the labor costs increasing overseas, energy costs are decreasing here in America – making the U.S. far more attractive than it has been in the past.

Manufacturers around the country, including DOD, are participating in Manufacturing Day in one way or another, to educate the public about the diverse range of opportunities that go unheard of in Manufacturing. October 4th is a day to bring awareness, combat misconceptions, and celebrate the renaissance that is returning to the USA. As a company that prides itself in our expertise and knowledge in gas detection systems and solutions – we are excited to pass our knowledge and know-how down to those interested in entering the emerging industry!

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OSHA’s Response to Isocyanates’ Dangers

US-OSHA-Logo.svgWorkers in many varying industries are consistently exposed to potentially harmful substances. Through careful monitoring, use of life safety systems, and government programs, many of the dangers can be avoided.  It’s just as important for employers and employees to remain aware and vigilant.

One particularly harmful substance, which we focused on in a recent blog post, is isocyanates.  These compounds are classified as potential carcinogens, and can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, and throat, as well as asthma.  Asthma-related deaths have occurred as a result of isocyanates exposure.

As a result, OSHA announced a new National Emphasis Program on June 25 to protect workers from the dangers of isocyanates. Like their other National Emphasis Programs, this will focus on both inspections and outreach efforts to call attention to the hazards, and encourage prevention.  The efforts will focus on general workplaces, as well as the construction and maritime industries.

According to Dr. David Michaels, OSHA’s Assistant Secretary of Labor, “Workers exposed to isocyanates can suffer debilitating health problems for months or even years after exposure. Through this program, OSHA will strengthen protections for workers exposed to isocyanates.”

In conjunction with OSHA’s program, employers should provide education and training related to isocyanates safety, and ensure all precautions are taken, and risks are minimized. We all have a responsibility to keep workers safe and healthy, and programs such as this can help those efforts.

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Safety for Workers and the Public in Hazardous Gas Exposure Situations

Workers and the public often interact with commercial gases and may not even know it.  It is the responsibility of an owner of a facility or commercial building to detect and then protect any workers or individuals who may come into contact with certain gases that have been classified as hazardous.  Regulations and standards are set by both OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration – a federal agency) and ACGIH (A member-based organization that advances occupational and environmental health).

According to the ACGIH, highly toxic gases include:

  • Gases that have a median Lethal Concentration (LC50) in air of 200 parts per million by volume or less of gas or vapor when administered by continuous inhalation for one hour (or less if death occurs within one hour) to albino rats weighing between 200 or 300 grams each.
  • A Threshold Limit Value (TLVs®) as established by ACGIH or a Permissible Exposure Level as established by OSHA, less than or equal to one part per million.
  • Designated as a “Poison A” by the DOT, and defined as poisonous gases or liquids of such nature that a very small amount of the gas, or vapor of the liquid, mixed with air is dangerous to life (49CFR173.326).In addition, ACGIH has set guidelines.

As the second bullet points out, TLV is an important way to measure potential harm from any exposure to known hazardous gases.  The TLVs were developed as a guideline to assist in the control of health hazards.

An important way to monitor these gases is the use of gas detectors that can identify TLV levels of gas.  If a gas exceeds the threshold amount, the detector will set off an alarm so that workers and any other individuals in the vicinity can quickly exit to a safe location that is far from any dangers associated with the gases.

Some of the gases that detectors can alert workers to are:  hydrides (arsine and phosphine) and mineral acids (hydrogen fluoride, hydrogen chloride, etc.).    Some of these gases can quickly send people to the hospital with respiratory issues, skin rashes, and some may even cause death.  When any hazardous gases are present, it is extremely important to have detectors in place to sound the alarm when an accidental release of the gases occurs.

Fortunately, there are requirements that all hazardous gases and locations that are dealing with hazardous gases maintain a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS).  These safety data sheet provide critical information for workers and EMT personnel so that they can instantly know how to handle certain substances in a safe manner.  The sheets include information about the gases’ physical properties (e.g., melting point, boiling point, flash point, etc.), overall toxicity, health effects, first aid that can be performed, reactivity, storage, disposal methods, protective equipment for handling, and spill-handling procedures.

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Isocyanates: Understanding the Risks and Staying Safe

Sierra Exif JPEGWhen working with certain materials and products—throughout many industries—it’s important to know what those materials are, and any health effects associated with them.  One common compound known to pose risks is isocyanates, which are the raw materials that make up all polyurethane products.  They are commonly used in, and encountered by, polyurethane manufacturers, specialty chemical manufacturers, and those working with rubbers, adhesives, fabrics, mattresses, insulation, and coating materials.

Commonly used isocyanates include toluene diisocyanate (TDI), methylene bisphenyl isocyanate (MDI), and NDI, HDI, and IPDI.  Used in building materials, furniture, packaging, and coatings, what they all have in common is that they pose potential health risks, including irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and skin, and lung problems, including asthma.  Additionally, they are classified as potential human carcinogens.

CL1Monitoring and controlling exposure to these compounds, and of the work environment itself, is crucial. This means wearing a protective self-contained breathing apparatus or a supplied-air respirator, goggles, chemical-resistant suits, gloves, and isolating work areas from unprotected workers.   Areas containing these products should be well ventilated, have safe fans and proper ducting, and have effective exhaust vents.  Knowing and recognizing symptoms of exposure—eye and skin irritation, rashes, sensitized skin—can mean quick and effective treatment.

Clinical management of isocyanate exposure is important and easy. Products that can detect Isocyanates include our IsoSense, CLPx, and CL1. Always be aware of the aforementioned symptoms and practice the safety/preventative procedures.  Practice routine safety methods, such as hand washing and awareness of surrounding environments, and be aware of first aid procedures.  You can find a list of related OSHA standards and safety techniques here, and remember that detection of any and all health risks is imperative, and often life-saving.

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The Role of Research & Development

When you’re providing customers with gas detection systems, you know that your products and services are about saving lives.  Quality and expertise—and the people who make it all happen—are built around this.  That’s why when it comes to gas detection systems, research and development plays an important role.

When it comes to life safety systems, any opportunity to make your products more reliable and efficient should be a priority. Our research and development team continuously works on improving these products, making them the absolute best they can be.  Research and development is nothing short of crucial to this industry.  The science, technology, and innovations are constantly changing and improving, and staying one step ahead means bringing these advancements to the products being made.  The advent of specific technologies—and understanding them—means enhanced gas detection.

As a result of this commitment, we’re excited to have a new member of our team, Jenny Gao, an expert with a PhD in chemistry from Penn State, who brings knowledge and passion to our growing R&D department. Ms. Gao has joined the R&D and production team and is helping to improve the products and assist in their innovation and growth.  The team is consistently finding new ways to make the products even better for the end users.  As part of this goal, they constantly follow the industry’s evolution as well as take in comments from customers and the industry, and apply them to their work.  As part of both the R&D and production teams, Ms. Gao takes her chemical research and knowledge and applies it to the actual product production, further advancing the DOD systems.

We take our role as a global leader, along with the importance of what we’re providing, very seriously.  We will continue to bring the latest advancements of our research & development to our products and our customers.

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See you at SESHA’s Annual Symposium and Expo in Long Beach!

DOD Technologies will be at the SESHA Annual Symposium & Exposition in Long Beach, California from March 18th through March 22nd.  At the expo, we’ll be networking with our friends in the semiconductor industry and exhibiting our products and technology. SESHA is the premier international organization promoting the effective communication of safety, health, and environmental information to the electronics and related high technology industries.

The symposium and expo takes place aboard the Queen Mary, and we’ll be in expo booth #202. In our booth we’ll be featuring the DOD64 FTIR Gas Detection System, the Next Generation ChemLogic Portable (CLPX), and we’ll be available to answer questions about all of our products and technology in a face-to-face setting.

In addition to our sales reps, Dan O’Donnell, owner of DOD Technologies, will be at the expo too! DOD Technologies is excited to be part of the SESHA symposium and expo, and we’re one of the sponsors of the 5K run that kicks of the symposium on March 17th.

If you’re at SESHA ESH Symposium & Expo, be sure to stop by booth #202 to say hello — and don’t forget to take home a DOD Technologies lanyard from SESHA. They’ll be giving them away at the show. We look forward to meeting you in Long Beach! In the meantime, if you have any questions, please call us at 1-877-363-5200.

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