Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

MS in Public Health (M.S.P.H.)

Degree Granting Department

Public Health

Major Professor

Steven Mlynarek, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Yehia Hammad, Sc.D.

Committee Member

René Salazar, Ph.D.


industrial, hygiene, clear, coat, urethane


A variety of paint products are used for their aesthetic and anti-corrosive properties. Isocyanates are consistently found in automobile paint products, particularly in clear coat polyurethane products. Clear coat is typically sprayed via pressurized air by means of an auto-spray robot. In clear coat repair situations, manual, air-powered spray guns are used, and manual spray Operators administer the clear coat material. The isocyanates are a primary anti-corrosive agent in polyurethane products. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has not established a Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL). The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) have set Recommended Exposure Limit (REL) and Threshold Limit Value (TLV), respectively. NIOSH recommends a 0.005 parts per million (ppm), 10-hour Time Weighted Average (TWA), and a ceiling exposure of 0.020 ppm in a 10 minute period. Similarly, ACGIH recommends a 0.005 ppm, 8 hour TWA.

Automobile manufacturers use clear coats in a variety of ways. Some may use clear coats with blocked isocyanates, or isocyanates that are completely reacted, and others may use clear coat products that allow isocyanates to be liberated during an application, baking, and curing process. The research objective of this study was to characterize exposure, focusing on a single manufacturer’s use of isocyanate-containing clear coats in their Paint Department. A newly evaluated medium (ISO 17734) using di-n-butylamine as a derivative agent, in a denuder tube, was selected instead of NIOSH methods 5521, 5522, and 5525. The ISO evaluated medium was selected to reduce secondary hazard exposure to toluene in impingers. Second, a medium developed by SKC, Inc., called ISO-CHEK®, was not selected because of the short collection time, sensitivity of the medium after collection, and storage and shipping requirements for analysis.

Sampling took place over two days, one day for manual spray operations with 2 personal samples from Operators, and 4 area samples collected, and the second day for auto-sprayer Inspectors with 4 personal samples collected. The samples were then analyzed for hexamethylene diisocyanates (HDI) monomer and homopolymer species. The 0.005 ppm, 10 hour TWA; the 0.020 ppm ceiling limit (10 minutes); and the 0.005 ppm 8-hour TWA TLV were not exceeded on either day of sampling. Neither the area nor the personal samples exceeded the 10 hour TWA, ceiling limit, or TLV. In fact, the results had to be recalculated in to parts per billion (ppb). The average exposure for manual spray Operators was 0.052 ppb for the homopolymer, and 0.024 ppb for the monomer species. For auto-spray Inspectors, the average was 0.053 ppb for the homopolymer component and 0.021 ppb for the monomer species. Though the average isocyanate concentration was similar for both Operators and Inspectors, the averages are still below REL and TLV recommendations. These data provided preliminary information regarding the exposure to isocyanates from clear coat use, and also provide context for future evaluation of isocyanate use at this automobile manufacturer. The low concentration of isocyanates could indicate working ventilation systems, liberation of isocyanate species to non-hazardous forms, or low volatilization of isocyanates from the clear coat.