§ Sir Bernard Braine
asked the Secretary of State for Employment what research is being currently undertaken into possible damage to the health of industrial workers from long term exposure to toluene di-isocyanate; what steps are being taken to control the amount of such exposure; and whether he considers that the code of practice revised in 1977 is adequate to protect workers involved in the use of this material.
§ Mr. John Grant
I understand from the chairman of the Health and Safety Commission that a study has recently started of the acute and long-term respiratory effects of isocyanates in a number of factories in the United Kingdom. This research, which is proceeding under the aegis of the Medical Research Council is being funded by the council and the British Rubber Manufacturers Association with a contribution from the Health and Safety Executive. The steering group directing the work, which is chaired by an eminent scientist in the field of occupational medicine, has members from the industry in addition to independent experts and government representatives.
The Health and Safety Executive in its Guidance Note EH15 "Threshold Limit Values" has published a threshold limit value for toluene di-isocyanate of 0.02ppm. This is a ceiling figure which should not be exceeded in the workplace atmosphere at any time. I am advised that normal industrial hygiene control measures, such as enclosure of the plant, exhaust ventilation, if properly designed 115W and used, and as a last resort respiratory protective equipment are adequate to control exposure of workpeople to below the ceiling value of 0.02ppm. The executive has also published a technical data note 41 "Isocyanates: Toxic Hazards and Precautions" which outlines the precautions to be taken when handling isocyanates, including toluene di-isocyanate, in a variety of industrial applications.
I presume that the code of practice referred to by the hon. Member is that produced by the British Rubber Manufacturers Association. In that case I am advised by the executive that it considers that precautions given therein are broadly in line with the advice given in the executive's own publication mentioned earlier but that it has made certain suggestions for improvements which the association will consider when the code is reprinted.