Cancer is Manufacturing’s Silent & Deadly Occupational Hazard

Cancer is Manufacturing’s Silent & Deadly Occupational Hazard 1

Cancer. The word evokes many feelings in people, sadness, and fear top the list. It’s no wonder. On a global scale, nearly 13 million people are diagnosed with cancer every year. Cancer is the leading cause of death in developed countries, including the United States. (1)

This group of diseases is caused by the division of abnormal cells, which causes malignant growths (or tumors) in specific parts of the body. A malignancy can increase in size, spreading the disease throughout the body. This often results in death.

Carcinogens in the Workplace

Many causes play a role in the growth of malignancies. A person’s risk of developing any given cancer is influenced by a combination of factors. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on exposure to cancer-causing agents in the workplace. In most instances, exposure is due to poor indoor air quality (IAQ).

Millions of U.S. workers are exposed to substances that have been tested and deemed carcinogenic. Based on research studying a link between cancer and occupational exposures, the CDC has reported these findings:

It has been estimated that 3-6% of all cancers worldwide are caused by exposure to carcinogens in the workplace. Using cancer incidence numbers in the U.S, this means that in 2012 (the most recent year available), there were between 45,872 and 91,745 new cancer cases that were caused by past exposure in the workplace. Cancers that occur as a result of exposures in the workplace are preventable if exposures to known or suspected carcinogens can be reduced. (1)

Our science and medical communities have cautioned industries about specific substances that cause cancer (such as benzene, styrene, and asbestos, for example). In addition, the government has imposed indoor air quality regulations. Despite this, occupational exposures to carcinogens continue to exist. Researchers at the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified more than one hundred carcinogens of physical, biological, or physical nature. Experts continue to discover new carcinogens, many of them occupationally related. (2)

Education and Outreach

Occupational exposure to cancer-causing material is thought to account for about 4% of all cancers in the US. Though such exposure has decreased greatly over the past several decades (due to stricter government standards), current statistics may reflect historical exposures that are only now being identified.

Though knowledge and strict regulations exist for certain cancer-causing compounds, dusts, and particulates in the workplace, potential exposure can still occur through accidents, regulation violations, or unknown hazards. (3)

Educational outreach and dissemination of information has been consistent, but workers may still be unaware they are at risk. Factory production workers, in addition to manufacturing laborers, are particularly vulnerable. Production workers often repeat the same set of tasks for every product that comes down the assembly line. The repetitive nature of the process allows workers to become highly efficient at their assignments. (4) It also means that if carcinogenic exposure is present, they will be exposed day-after-day, week-after-week to toxic, disease-causing agents.

Many occupations hold a threat of contact with cancer-causing pollution, but some industries top out the list for cancer rates and exposure risks. Consider the following:

Occupations With The Highest Incidence Of Cancers Reported

Paint-Related Manufacturing – Bladder, Kidney, Lung, Lymphoma

Rubber-Related Manufacturing – Bladder, Larynx, Leukemia, Lung, Lymphoma

Plastics-Related Manufacturing – Kidney, Larynx, Liver (3)

In the paint industry, for example, there are thousands of chemical compounds used. Pigments, extenders, binders, additives, and solvents contain known cancer-causing agents such as toluene and xylene. Paint manufacture workers are potentially exposed to the chemicals found in the products they manufacture (5), as are laborers in the manufacture of rubber. Rubber workers handle raw materials in day-to-day operations. Production workers in both groups are exposed to dust and fumes via inhalation and dermal contact. (6) This exposure translates to a significant risk of contracting the occupational illness, even cancer.

Working in these industries needn’t be a cancer threat, however. The EPA recommends eliminating indoor air pollutants through air cleaning source control and ventilation. (7)

At AIR Systems Inc., we serve our customers by identifying areas of potential risk. We supply stellar products that will properly ventilate work areas and remove air-impurities. Contact us today to schedule a free estimate with one of our skilled and experienced clean air specialists.

Remove Indoor Air Quality Occupational Risk For Plastics Industry Workers

Workers are exposed to a variety of fumes as part of heating and molding  processes in the plastics industry during plastics manufacturing.

As a versatile material, plastics is used to make packaging and containers, to ensure quality smartphone manufacturing and for a variety of other applications. There are over 1.1 million employees in the plastics industry, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

These workers commonly come into contact with chemical fumes that are emitted during raw material manufacturing and plastics processing. As plastics come in the form of granules, powders or pellets, there are certain ways to mold or shape these materials into products. For the plastics manufacturing process, the material has heat or pressure applied to the plastic or the plastic resins are combined with additives, including fillers and pigments, according to Health and Safety Executive.

Sources of Plastics Fumes

One of the main plastic-making processes employed by manufacturers is thermoplastic injection molding, which heats plastic pellets until they are melted so they can be shaped by a mold to form products. As workers perform these manufacturing procedures, they are at risk for being exposed to fumes from the plastics either from the machines used for manufacturing or the plastics materials themselves.

“The primary sources of emissions at plastic products manufacturing facilities are the pieces of equipment (e.g., extruder hopper, die head, sander) used to handle raw materials and produce the final product,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency. “These are typically the locations where chemical reactions occur, liquid solvents and solvent blends are exposed to the atmosphere, solid resin is heated and melted, and additives are introduced.”

The level of fume exposure during the process varies but it is usually dependent on the type of operating procedure and the material that is being produced. Workers may find themselves exposed to different kinds of fumes during plastics processing, including hydrogen chloride from PVC plastic and formaldehyde from acetals. When heat is applied to it, pure PVC breaks down to form hydrochloric acid gas. Fumes from plastics can irritate the lungs and are even thought to be cancer-causing.

Types of Emissions From Plastic Manufacturing

Employees can also come into contact with plastics fumes while handling thermoforming resins, which could generate volatile organic compounds (VOC) and hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions. These are byproducts of the chemical reactions of heating resins and are also emitted by additives, a secondary material in the process. In addition to VOCs and HAP emissions, particulate matter can also form while workers handle raw materials through grinding or cutting or other finishing procedures for plastic production.

To help control the presence of fumes, HSE recommends implementing local exhaust ventilation (LEV). This engineering control can include fume extraction equipment such as extractors, which can be effective in case plastic film sticks and overheats or other instances where heating processes can endanger workers. Aging machines can also pose a risk to workers if their processing controls are unpredictable.

OSHA also recommends adequate ventilation and fume extraction systems so workers do not inhale gases that could cause long term health effects.

Industrial and manufacturing news brought to you by Air Impurities Removal Systems, Inc.

Thermoset Plastic Manufacturing and PAH Exposure

Thermoset Plastic Manufacturing and PAH Exposure 1

Upon entering the kitchen and flicking on the light, little thought is likely given to where or how that light switch was made, any more than thought is given to the countertops on which the food is prepared or the pot handles of the vessel used to cook the food. Those who work in the thermosetting plastics industry, however, think about these products all the time. It’s what they do.

Plastics are one of the most used and indispensable materials in modern life and thermoset plastics, in particular, are valued for their stain and heat resistance and for their durability.

Employing over 1.1 million workers in the United States, the plastics industry represents a substantial percentage of the American workforce. (1) Of those workers, many of them work in thermosetting, jobs ranging from raw material manufacturing to plastics processing.

Thermoset plastics are synthetic materials that cannot be molded or reheated after their initial heat formation. Thermosetting is the process of transforming granular material into molded shapes, curing through a chemical reaction activated by heat and pressure, which in turn forms a strong molecular bond. This is in contrast to thermoplastics, which are products that soften when heated and harden after cooling.

As with all industries that manufacture goods, there are occupational risks.

One such risk is PAH exposure. PAHs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, are a group of chemical compounds that are found naturally in the burning of fossil fuels and are by-products of heat-produced manufactured goods such as medicines, dyes and plastics. Of these compounds, naphthalene is a top contender of risk: a substance that is not only pervasive, but also harmful. (2)

The chemical naphthalene is most commonly known for its use in mothballs. Naphthalene evaporates easily and gives mothballs their distinct odor. But in the production of thermosets, naphthalene is released into the air at the melting and burning stage, causing vapors to enter a worker’s air space. Once airborne, naphthalene is broken down by moisture and sunlight but not quickly; often lingering in the atmosphere up to 24 hours. (3)

Acute (short-term) symptoms of naphthalene exposure will present immediately when levels are high. Various symptoms include headache, confusion, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dermatitis, optical twitching and corneal damage. Organs targeted are the eyes, skin, blood, liver, kidneys, and central nervous system. (4) Cataracts have also been reported in workers acutely exposed to naphthalene by inhalation. Chronic (long-term) exposure, especially at low levels, is harder to identify due to symptoms being typical of a variety of other causations. Chronic symptoms are similar to those of acute exposure, with additional indicators such as retinal damage and cataracts. The EPA has classified naphthalene as a possible (Group C) human carcinogen. (5)

But naphthalene exposure to workers in the thermosetting industry is by no means inevitable. Preventative measures on the manufacturing floor – protective clothing, proper ventilation, and indoor air cleaning products – can eliminate the presence of offending vapors and fumes.

At Air Systems Inc, we protect our customers in the plastics industry by providing them with stellar indoor air cleaning equipment and products. Contact us today to set up a free consultation with one of our clean air specialists.

Combustible Dust Hazards in Manufacturing

Maintain Clean Indoor Air Quality To Combat Combustible Dust Fires and Explosions in Industrial Settings

Maintain Clean Indoor Air Quality to Combat Fires and Explosions in Industrial Settings

One of the most horrific events of America’s industrial manufacturing history was the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Company factory fire in New York City. The tragedy, which killed 146 workers, led to the enactment of a succession of laws and regulations that eventually improved the protections and safety of all factory workers

But calamities still occur, such as the 2008 dust explosion at the Imperial Sugar refinery in Georgia. Thirteen people were killed and another 42 were injured when extreme heat in a confined sugar bagging room mixed with product dust particulates.

Not all fires cause explosions or loss of life. In a typical incident, airborne combustible dust material comes into contact with an ignition source, which causes a small fire. Even small fires in industrial facilities cause product loss, time, and money. Or the outcome can be far worse. If there is nearby dust, the primary explosion will cause that dust to become airborne. Then, the dust cloud itself can ignite, causing a secondary explosion that will likely be many times the size and severity of the primary explosion. These secondary explosions have the potential to bring down entire facilities, causing immense damage and fatalities – a reality both the Triangle and Imperial disasters underscore. Today, most businesses have specific industrial safety measures in place in order to avoid a calamity. But such systems are only as good as the people who monitor them. Vigilance must be constant.

The “Fire Triangle”

For a fire to actually occur, rapid oxidation of materials must mix with heat or light and various fuel sources.

Elements Of Fire
    1. Combustible dust (fuel)
    2. Ignition source (heat)
    3. Oxygen in air (oxidizer)
Elements Of Dust Explosion add to the triangle:
    4. Dispersion of dust particles in sufficient quantity and concentration
    5. Confinement of the dust cloud

What Businesses Are At Risk?

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) defines industrial manufacturing properties as:

…Those with a variety of property uses, including manufacturing and processing, agriculture, utility or distribution systems, energy production, laboratories, mines or quarries, and forest, timberland, or woodlands. 

The definition attributed by the NFPA serves to highlight the types of manufacturing likely to create conditions conducive for fires to start. But the potential for accumulated particulate solids to ignite and create a flash fire or explosion is a constant hazard in just about every industry you can name. The reason is that just about everything, including food, dyes, chemicals, and metals – even materials that don’t fire risks in greater quantities – have the potential to be combustible in dust form. Industries, along with their ignition sources, with the highest incident reports, are:

Food Production – agricultural products such as sugar and grains

Woodworking – wood sawdust

Recycling Facilities – a wide variety of combustible materials are processed and transported

Metal Work – metallic dust

Synthetic Manufacturing – plastics, pharmaceuticals, rubber

Avoiding Fires

The most recent NFPA estimates show an average of 37,000 fires at industrial plants and factories each year.  Many, if not all, of these fires and explosions, could be avoided with proper – and diligently monitored – control measures. OSHA recommends the Three C’s for fuel and dust fire avoidance:

  • Capture dust before it escapes into a work area by using properly designed, installed, approved, and maintained dust collection systems.
  • Contain dust within the equipment, systems, or rooms that are built and operated to safely handle airborne combustible dust.
  • Clean work areas, overhead surfaces, and concealed spaces frequently and thoroughly using safe housekeeping methods to remove airborne combustible dust not captured or contained

At Air Systems Inc., we protect our customers by using our stellar products to capture particulate matter and remove potentially combustible fumes and vapors from their business environments. For the safety and peace of mind of you and your workforce, contact us today for a free air quality assessment with one of our skilled and experienced environmental specialists.

Report: Poor Ventilation During Electrical Cable Manufacturing May Result in Respiratory Problems

During manufacturing of electrical components and cables, manufacturers may want to determine whether their employees are exposed to high levels of toxic airborne chemicals. A health hazard evaluation (HHE) report published by The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found employees at a facility that produced electrical power distribution cable accessories may have been exposed to chemicals during manufacturing that may result in respiratory problems. Manufacturing employers that may see reports of respiratory issues among their workforce may want to invest in fume extraction solutions to remove toxic airborne chemicals from their workspace.

NIOSH said employees were concerned about certain manufacturing processes – including rubber molding, plastic extrusion and soldering – causing them to be exposed to harmful chemicals. Previously, workers reported symptoms related to issues with their eye, nose, throat and respiratory systems. They also said they experienced dizziness and headaches. In addition to analyzing employee concerns in its HHE report, NIOSH said it evaluated the company’s the work practices at the facility as well as potential air and surface contaminants.

Workers at risk for excess chemical exposure

“Although the chemicals we measured during our evaluation were below relevant OELs, levels at other times may have been higher depending on varying conditions,” the NIOSH report said. “In addition, some employees may still experience symptoms when compounds are present at levels below the OELs. Employee symptoms despite low air levels of solvents could be explained by the skin absorption of certain chemicals (OELs do not take into account chemical exposure through skin absorption)”

Importance of ventilation systems to limit exposure

In addition to having some chemicals surpass the limit for exposure, the facility had a damaged ventilation system, which was observed to have holes and disconnected ducts. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, companies should maintain their ventilation equipment to optimize employee safety.

“Ventilation may be deficient in confined spaces, facilities failing to provide adequate maintenance of ventilation equipment, facilities operated to maximize energy conservation, windowless areas, and areas with high occupant densities,” according to OHSA.

Companies may want to make sure their engineering controls, which include ventilation, are working properly. NIOSH recommended that the electronics cable manufacturer fix its ventilation system and expand its engineering controls to limit exposure to potentially harmful chemicals. The report noted employers may want to install exhaust ventilation on drying racks to protect workers who may be exposed to chemicals from painted parts. They may also want to invest in fume extraction solutions that will remove air impurities and replace them with clean air for to ensure worker safety. 

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