Polyisocyanates are either based on HDI or IPDI. The most important products are
available as 100% solids and/or dissolved in a variety of solvents.
Polyisocyanates still contain small amounts of Monomeric Diisocyanate (typically <0.5 parts per weight) and both – the Polyisocyanate and the monomer – have toxicological importance. In addition, solvents also contribute to the overall toxicity of these products. A manifold of products with a wide range of different properties are offered by ALIPA members. In the following you find a compilation of general aspects which apply to most Polyisocyanates:
Due to the higher molecular weight and the much lower vapor pressure the Polyisocyanates exhibit a significantly reduced health hazard as compared to the corresponding monomers. Nevertheless they should only be handled under controlled conditions. They are not or only slightly irritating to the skin and eyes, but might be irritating to the respiratory tract (nose, throat, lung). Polyisocyanates might act as skin sensitisers. From animal models, however, there is no evidence that Polyisocyanates are sensitising to the respiratory tract. Results from animal tests with repeated aerosol exposures indicate that under these conditions the respiratory tract is the primary target of aliphatic Polyisocyanates, other organs are not significantly affected. Available information does not provide evidence that Polyisocyanates might either be mutagenic, carcinogenic or toxic to reproduction.
Details on toxicological properties should be taken from product specific safety data sheets.
Classification regarding sensitisation
The ALIPA member companies have conducted toxicological studies required to evaluate the properties of their products as sound basis for classification and labelling. On that basis there is clear evidence from sensitive animal models that HDI-based as well as IPDI-based polyisocyanates and prepolymers may cause skin sensitisation. Consequently, ALIPA member companies have decided to classify all HDI-based and IPDI-based polyisocyanates and prepolymers as skin sensitizers (Hazard Statement H317 - "May cause an allergic skin reaction"). In contrast available evidence from animal experiments suggest that HDI-based and IPDI-based polyisocyanates do not act as respiratory sensitisers. Such products are therefore not classified as respiratory sensitizers (Hazard statement H334 - "May cause allergy or asthma symptons or breathing difficulties if inhaled), unless monomer content or other ingredients require this risk phrase.
All Polyisocyanates are not readily biodegradable. However, due to other elimination mechanisms (hydrolysis, adsorption), long retention times in water are not to be expected. The resulting polyrea is more or less inert and, due to its molecular size, not bioavailable. Within the limits of water solubility, Polyisocyanates have a low to moderate toxicity for aquatic organisms.
Details on ecological properties should be taken from product specific safety data sheets.
Exposure Controls / PPE
Respiratory protection is required in insufficiently ventilated work areas and during spraying. An air-fed mask, or for short periods of work, a combination of charcoal filter and particulate filter is recommended. Body protection should be chosen based on activity and possible exposure, e.g. apron, protecting boots, chemical-protection suit. Face protection/protective goggles as well as chemical resistant protective gloves should be worn. Details on suitable glove material should be taken from product specific safety data sheets.
Occupational Exposure Limits (OELs) for individual Polyisocyanates can be found under OELs. For REACH registered Blocked Polyisocyanates DNEL's (Deried no effect level) can be found in the corresponding safety data sheets.
Personnel who work with Polyisocyanates should have a pre-placement medical examination and periodic examinations thereafter, including a pulmonary function test. Anyone with a medical history of chronic respiratory disease, asthmatic or bronchial attacks, indications of allergic responses, recurrent eczema or sensitization conditions of the skin should not handle or work with Polyisocyanates. Anyone who develops chronic respiratory distress when working with Polyisocyanates should be removed from exposure and examined by a physician. Further exposure must be avoided if a sensitivity to Polyisocyanates or the corresponding monomeric diisocyanates has developed.
First Aid Measures
Upon skin contact, remove any contaminated clothing immediately. Wipe off mechanically and wash affected areas thoroughly with soap and water. Contaminated clothing should be discarded or washed thoroughly before reuse. For severe exposures, the affected person should get under a safety shower, using the flushing action of the water to remove the bulk of the chemical, then remove contaminated clothing and wash skin with soap and water. Seek medical attention. For lesser exposures, the individual should seek medical attention if irritation develops or persists after the area is washed.
Following uptake by inhalation, move person to an area free from risk of further exposure. Oxygen or artificial respiration should be administered as needed. Asthmatic-type symptoms may develop and may be immediate or delayed up to several hours. Treatment is essentially symptomatic. A physician should be consulted.
Upon eye contact, flush with large amounts of lukewarm water for at least 10 minutes, holding eyelids open all the time. Refer the affected individual to an eye specialist or other physician for immediate follow-up.
Following ingestion, the person should drink 1 to 2 cups of water. Vomiting should not be induced and nothing should be given orally to an unconscious or convulsing person. A physician should be consulted