NEW TEST TO PREVENT INDUSTRIAL ASTHMA Research from the UK has indicated that spray painters can develop industrial asthma at a rate 80 times higher than the general public. In response to this alarming statistic, SafeWork NSW has been looking into spray painting in the motor vehicle repair industry. Over a two year period SafeWork NSW inspectors investigated risks to health and safety as well as how to improve harm prevention. They also launched an Australian first – a new urine test to monitor exposure to harmful urethanes.
It’s believed that hardener, one of the components in two pack urethane paint, contains a known respiratory sensitising agent, isocyanate, or more correctly monomeric isocyanate. In recent years, paint manufacturers have reduced the quantity of free monomeric isocyanate in paint products, but with cases of industrial asthma persisting, additional testing and research is required to understand where exposure is occurring and how to combat it.
The project involved:
- Urine testing to determine spray painter exposure to various isocyanates present in the hardener of urethane paints. The urine test was developed by TestSafe, SafeWork NSW’s Laboratory.
- Testing spray painters’ overall solvent exposure by looking at urine for either solvents or solvent metabolites determining compliance levels of spray painting booths in accordance with the Australian Standards and relevant codes of practice.
Urine testing for isocyanate exposure is the first such test in Australia. It is a major advance in safety for people who work with isocyanates. Previously, a sick patient was all a doctor had to determine exposure, so by the time respiratory changes were picked up it was usually too late to reverse the patient’s asthma.
However, as the test is so new it is not yet widely known in the motor vehicle repair industry or amongst general practitioners. SafeWork NSW plans to increase knowledge around the availability of the urine test and its harm prevention applications in monitoring exposure levels and avoiding respiratory diseases.
Spray painters should take regular urine tests to monitor chemical exposure levels. To view to full document go to: https://www.testsafe.com.au/chemical/chemical-analysis-handbook The relevant standards are: AS/NZS 4114.1:2003 Spray painting booths, designated spray painting areas and paint mixing rooms – design, construction and testing and AS/NZS 4114.2:2003 Spray painting booths, designated spray painting areas and paint mixing rooms – installation and maintenance, as well as the Code of Practice: Spray painting and powder coating – 2015. For more information regarding conducting the testing call HAYDEN on 0403 428 523.