Labour Research November 2012

Health & Safety Matters

Better detection of harmful chemicals

New improved methods for detecting harmful isocyanates have been developed.

Isocyanates are widely present in industrial processes and can be found in work areas such as motor vehicle repair shops or during flame bonding of polyurethane foams. Isocyanic acid (ICA) and methyl isocyanate (MIC) are common in the machining of polyurethane painted parts.

Isocyanates irritate the eyes, skin and breathing system. In particular, they are considered to be a major cause of occupational and work-related asthma.

Detection methods have until now been focused on large di-isocyanate molecules, but such methods are not good at detecting the most common mono-isocyanatates — ICA and MIC. These are both low molecular weight types.

However, detection has been significantly improved and new methods use multiple reaction monitoring and mass spectrometry, as well as improved analysis of urine samples.