Four-year follow-up of effects of toluene diisocyanate exposure on the respiratory system in polyurethane foam manufacturing workers - I. Study design and results of the first cross-sectional observation

Kazuyuki Omae, Toshio Nakadate, Toshiaki Higashi, Masahiro Nakaza, Yoshiharu Aizawa, Haruhiko Sakurai

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A 4-year cohort study was designed to assess the exposure-effect relationship of working in polyurethane foam (PF) manufacturing factories with exposure to toluene diisocyanate (TDI) and its effects on the respiratory system. This paper describes the results of the first cross-sectional observations. The study population included 90 male workers who had been working in PF factories for 0.5-25 years (mean 13.3 years) (PF workers) and 44 reference workers in the same factories. The mean exposure concentration of TDI calculated from 129 personal samples was 3.2 ppb. Peak exposure excursions above 20 ppb occurred in 16 of 129 samples. Pulmonary function and its change during the working day as assessed by examining the forced expiratory flow-volume curve, respiratory impedance, and airway resistance and specific airway conductance were not different in the PF workers from those in the reference workers. Chest X-radiographs did not show any noteworthy radiological changes. Prevalences of "phlegm in winter," "nasal stuffiness or discharge in winter," and "irritation of eye and throat mucous membranes" were significantly higher in the PF workers. The findings indicate that TDI exposure at levels around 3 ppb may not adversely affect the pulmonary function over many years of exposure of those who are not hypersensitive to TDI. The causal chemicals inducing some respiratory and irritative symptoms could not be specifically identified since the PF workers were exposed not only to TDI but also to other irritative agents in the PF manufacturing processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)559-564
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1992 Apr 1



  • Cohort study
  • Polyurethane foam
  • Pulmonary function
  • Respiratory symptom
  • Toluene diisocyanate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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