Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Aliphatic Polyisocyanate Paints In Automotive

Two-component, polyurethane paints containing aliphatic isocyanates are widely used in autobody spray painting. Such isocyanates can cause asthma, and skin exposure may be an important route of sensitization and may contribute to the development of isocyanate asthma. Autobody workers are frequently in contact with recently painted, dried auto parts. It is not known how fast the newly painted car surfaces are fully cured, that is, for how long unbound, isocyanate species remain on painted surfaces after initial drying. To address this question, scrap sections of auto bodies were painted and dried by autobody shop painters following regular practice. Routinely used paints were sprayed 23 different times on the parts. Drying was accomplished by baking the part in a paint spray booth by heating it with a heat lamp or air drying in the shop.

The 23 sprayed surfaces were sampled at regular time intervals after drying to determine the presence of free NCO groups using the semiquantitative SWYPE technique. Quantitative isocyanate analysis was also performed on two sprayed parts using NIOSH method 5525. Geometric mean curing time of 23 painted surfaces was 56.4 hr (range: 0.8 hrs to 32 days). Unbound isocyanate species of similar composition to the original bulk material remained present on the majority of sampled painted surfaces for up to 120 hours for typical paint formulations and for 1 month for others.

The actual curing of polyurethane paints in autobody refinishing can be a slow process. Unbound isocyanates may remain on the surface of painted car parts for prolonged periods (days to weeks) after dried. Such surfaces are an under-recognized potential source of skin exposure to autobody workers.

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