Monthly Round Up of Important Ideas and Standards in
Industrial Hygiene and Safety
IN THIS ISSUE: Health Hazards of Aluminum
Aluminum is the most abundant metal in the earth’s crust and is widely used in general industry and construction. Because of its light weight and durability, it is found in a large variety of products including cans, foils, kitchen utensils, window frames, beer kegs and aviation and aerospace parts.Despite its potential,exposure to aluminum at work is widespread and people are exposed to several types of the metal. Exposures occur during mining the ore, production of aluminum by electrolytic reduction of the oxide, cold cutting, sawing, grinding, polishing the metal, welding and flame cutting. In the form of a fine dust from sanding or grinding, it can cause scarring of the lungs with symptoms of cough and shortness of breath. Its most critical effect is as a neurotoxin. Studies on welders exposed to aluminum welding fumes have “revealed disturbances of cognitive processes, memory and concentration, and changes in mood and EEG.”
Currently OSHA does not recognize Aluminum as a specific hazardous metal. The Permissible Exposure Limit is the same as dust which specifies a PEL of 15 mg/m3 for Total Particulates and 5 mg/m3 for Respirable Particulates. The American Conference of Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) does recognize the hazards of Aluminum exposure, especially in the respirable form, and has set a Threshold Limit Value of 1 mg/m3.
The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services suggests the following to control exposure:
- Where possible, enclose operations and use local exhaust ventilation at the site of chemical release.
- If local exhaust ventilation or enclosure is not feasible, respirators should be worn.
- Wear protective work clothing.
- Wash thoroughly immediately after exposure to aluminum.
- Post hazard and warning information in the work area.
- As part of an ongoing education and training effort, communicate all information on the health and safety hazards of aluminum to potentially exposed workers.
- Provide a medical evaluation before beginning employment and at regular times after that, (at least annually), including a lung function test and a chest x-ray after acute exposure.
Although not specifically recognized by OSHA, NIOSH, or other governmental entities as a hazardous metal, scientific studies have found that aluminum is harmful to workers. As with any hazardous material, employers should recognize employee exposures, evaluate the hazard, and implement controls to ensure the health of the workforce.
OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety, Inc. provides skills and expertise to recognize, evaluate and control hazards and injuries in the areas of industrial hygiene, occupational safety and health. OccuSafe services companies of all sizes in a range of industries.
This newsletter is published monthly by OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety Services, Inc. Feel free to forward it to friends and colleagues or see past newsletters at occusafeinc.com/category/newsletter/