Preventing Lung Disease in Workers Who Use or Make Flavorings

The US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) requests
assistance in preventing lung disease and other health effects in workers who
use or make flavorings. The occurrence of severe lung disease in workers who
make flavorings or use them to produce microwave popcorn has revealed an
unrecognized occupational health risk. Flavorings are often complex mixtures of
many chemicals. The safety of these chemicals is usually established for humans
consuming small amounts in food, not for food industry workers inhaling them.
Production workers employed by flavoring manufacturers (or those who use
flavorings in the production process) often handle a large number of chemicals,
many of which can be highly irritating to breathe in high concentrations.

NIOSH describes health effects that may occur because of workplace exposure to
some flavorings or their ingredients, gives examples of workplace settings in
which illness has occurred, and recommends steps that companies and workers
should take to prevent hazardous exposures, i.e:

  • Substitution
  • Engineering controls
  • Administrative controls
  • Education
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Exposure and worker health monitoring

Workers who make, use, or work near flavorings or flavoring ingredients should
take the following steps to protect their health:

  • Ask your supervisor for training on the hazards associated with the
    flavorings and ingredients.
  • Read labels on containers and material safety data sheets on the flavorings
    and ingredients.
  • Know and use the exposure control devices and work practices that keep
    flavorings and ingredients out of the air in your workplace.
  • Keep containers of flavorings and chemical ingredients tightly closed when
    not in use so that their contents do not get into the workplace air.
  • Understand when and how to wear a respirator (protective breathing mask)
    and other personal protective equipment (such as gloves and eye goggles) that
    your employer may provide.
  • Participate in breathing tests provided by your employer.
  • Promptly report any persistent shortness of breath or cough, or any
    problems with your eyes, nose, throat, or skin to your supervisor and your
    doctor. When you report your symptoms, show them a copy of this Alert.

Companies that use or make flavorings should take the following steps to
protect the health of their workers:

  • Limit hazardous worker exposures:
    • Consider substitution of less hazardous flavoring ingredients
      or formulations where feasible.
    • Use closed production processes (i.e., avoid handling of open
      containers of flavorings and ingredients).
    • Apply effective local exhaust ventilation as well as general
      dilution ventilation in places where flavorings or their ingredients are
    • Isolate mixing and other high-exposure processes from the rest of
      the workplace and maintain these work areas under negative air pressure.
    • Use the lowest temperatures necessary if heated processes are used.
    • Establish and enforce work practices to limit release of chemical
      vapors and dust into the workplace air.

  • Monitor air concentrations of flavoring ingredients to assure that control
    efforts are limiting exposures.
  • Train workers on the potential for lung disease and other health effects
    from exposure to flavoring-related chemicals and on ways exposure can be
    avoided or minimized.
  • Assure appropriate labeling of containers and posting of warnings.
  • Provide workers with appropriate respiratory protection if they are at risk
    for hazardous respiratory exposure to flavorings or their ingredients
    • while optimal exposure controls are being implemented,
    • when controls are not working properly because of a breakdown or
      maintenance procedures, and
    • when even the lowest exposures that can be achieved are still
      associated with potential risk.

  • Provide workers with other appropriate personal protective equipment (e.g.,
    gloves, masks, and goggles) if they are at risk for hazardous eye and skin
  • Provide breathing tests (spirometry) before the first exposure, and on a
    regular basis thereafter, to all workers at risk of hazardous exposure to
    flavorings or their ingredients. Refer workers for evaluation by a physician if
    they have abnormal test results, an accelerated drop in test results over time,
    or persistent symptoms.
  • Assess the patterns of reported symptoms and lung function results among
    the entire workforce to identify work areas, processes, or exposures that may
    require more intensive intervention to prevent further adverse health

Further Information

AplusA-online.de - Source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)