Isocyanates are a group of lowmolecular weight, highly reactive chemicals. They are commonly utilized in themanufacturing of rigid and flexible fibers, plastics, coatings includingvarnishes and paints, and thermal insulating materials, such as fiberglass andfoam. Isocyanates have thermo-reactive properties which make them very usefulfor a variety of applications. Isocyanates can be either polar or non-polar.The most common type of isocyanate is monocyanate, which is commonly used as apolymerized or to prepare thermosetting plastics. Polyurethane is adiisocyanate, which is widely used as an additive in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals,due to its ability to form adhesion between resins and surfactants. Otherapplications of isocyanates include forming adhesives for fabric sealers, andin paints and varnish. Isocyanates that form adhesives are commonly calledthermosetting polyurethane and thermoplastic adhesives.
The most common health hazard fromexposure to isocyanatesoccurs when inhaled. Isocyanates have been identified as the most common causeof occupational asthma and allergic rhinitis. A large number of chemicals usedin the food and beverage industry are derived from isocyanates. These chemicalsare often used together with low-molecular-weight alcohols to enhance thestickiness of certain plastics. In recent years, there has been an increasedinterest in the employment of Isocyanates as part of an occupational health andsafety management approach to managing Isocyanates based hazards. Isocyanatespresent significant risks of exposure for workers and therefore should beregulated by controlling exposure to all Isocyanates. One method of controllingexposure is through engineering controls. Isocyanates present a number ofpotential sources of exposure such as vapors, aerosols, dust, fumes, vapors,and surface water. The majority of these chemical components are emitted duringthe processing or fabrication of products and as such, are considered protectedsites of exposure.
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