Preliminary study of propyl bromide exposure among New Jersey dry cleaners as a result of a pending ban on perchloroethylene.
Many states are considering, and some states have actively pursued, banning the use of perchloroethylene (PERC) in dry cleaning establishments. Proposed legislation has led many dry cleaners to consider the use of products that contain greater than 90% n-propyl bromide (n-PB; also called 1-bromopropane or 1-BP). Very little information is known about toxicity and exposure to n-PB. Some n-PB-containing products are marketed as nonhazardous and "green" or "organic." This has resulted in some users perceiving the solvent as nontoxic and has resulted in at least one significant poisoning incident in New Jersey. In addition, many dry cleaning operators may not realize that the machine components and settings must be changed when converting from PERC to n-PB containing products. Not performing these modifications may result in overheating and significant leaks in the dry cleaning equipment. A preliminary investigation was conducted of the potential exposures to n-PB and isopropyl bromide (iso-PB; also called 2-bromopropane or 2-BP) among dry cleaners in New Jersey who have converted their machines from PERC to these new solvent products. Personal breathing zone and area samples were collected using the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Sampling and Analytical Method 1025, with a slight modification to gas chromatography conditions to facilitate better separation of n-PB from iso-PB. During the preliminary investigation, exposures to n-PB among some workers in two of three shops were measured that were greater than the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) threshold limit value (TLV) for n-PB. The highest exposure measured among a dry cleaning machine operator was 54 parts per million (ppm) as an 8-hr time-weighted average, which is more than 5 times the ACGIH TLV of 10 ppm. The preliminary investigation also found that the work tasks most likely to result in the highest short-term exposures included the introduction of solvent to the machine, maintenance of the machine, unloading and handling of recently cleaned clothes, and interrupting the wash cycle of the machine. In addition, this assessment suggested that leaks may have contributed to exposure and may have resulted from normal machine wear over time, ineffective maintenance, and from the incompatibility of n-PB with gasket materials.
Blando, JD; Schill, DP; De La Cruz, MP; Zhang, L; Zhang, J
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