Air pollutants may prove hazardous to rubber industry workers.
We Americans like our cars. Our country ranked #3 on a list of countries with the highest car ownership per capita – nearly 800 cars per 1,000 people. At four tires (or more) per vehicle, that’s a lot of tires. In fact, market data compiled by tirebusiness.com reported that together, the top eight tire-producing states turn out nearly half a million tires per day. (1)
It takes a great number of workers to make those tires. And many within that group are exposed – day in and day out – to indoor air pollutants that can make them sick.
The rubber tire manufacturing industry has come a long way since Charles Goodyear discovered vulcanization in 1839. His process of hardening rubber by treating it with sulfur at high temperatures paved the way for industry behemoths such as Michelin, Bridgestone, and the company bearing his name, Goodyear, to share the worldwide market, together with selling billions of tires to needy consumers. But with all the industrial and manufacturing advancements came environmental challenges, many of which still exist today.
The EPA has identified rubber tire manufacturing facilities as major sources of hazardous indoor air pollution. Formaldehyde, styrene, hexane, and toluene are just some of the toxins associated with adverse health effects, both acute and chronic, for manufacturing workers. (3)
The process of making a tire is far more involved than just molding rubber into a form. First, more than 25 different ingredients and hundreds of chemicals are blended to create the rubber filler. The resulting rubber is then milled and cut in preparation for construction. After a tire is built, curing takes place; this is the step in which the tire is vulcanized in a curing machine and is compressed into a final shape. Lastly, the inspection takes place. During the milling and curing stages, in particular, impurities are released into the air. If not contained, vented or eliminated, deadly dust and fumes will hover in an employee’s workspace, making inhalation and absorption through the skin likely. (2)
Due to the potential for exposure to harmful chemicals, OSHA recommends that proper engineering controls, work practices, protective clothing, and respirators be used and that,
Engineering controls should include an enclosure, dilution, or general and local exhaust ventilation. Furthermore, Isolation of the operation of equipment should also be considered.(4)
At Air Systems Inc., we serve our customers in the rubber tire industry by providing indoor air quality management solutions in addition to stellar IAQ products. Our air impurity removal systems remove toxic fumes for the health and peace of mind of both employee and business owner.