Skin exposure to aliphatic polyisocyanates in the auto body repair and refinishing industry: II. A quantitative assessment

Dhimiter Bello, Carrie A. Redlich, Meredith H. Stowe, Judy Sparer, Susan R. Woskie, Robert P. Streicher, H. Dean Hosgood, Youcheng Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Background: Skin exposure to isocyanates, in addition to respiratory exposures, may contribute to sensitization and asthma. Quantitative skin exposure data are scarce and quantitative methods limited. Methods: As part of the Survey of Painters and Repairers of Autobodies by Yale study, a method to sample and quantify human isocyanate skin exposure was developed (based on NIOSH 5525 method) and used to evaluate aliphatic isocyanate skin exposure in 81 auto body shop painters and body technicians. Wipe samples were collected from unprotected skin and from under PPE (gloves, clothing and respirator) using a polypropylene glycol-impregnated wipe. Hexamethylene diisocyanate (HDI), its polyisocyanates [HDI-derived polyisocyanates (pHDI)], isophorone diisocyanate (IPDI) and its polyisocyanates and IPDI-derived polyisocyanates (pIPDI) were quantified separately and also expressed as the total free isocyanate groups (total NCO). Results: For unprotected skin areas, 49 samples were collected for spray painting, 13 for mixing, 27 for paint-related tasks (e.g. sanding and compounding) and 53 for non-paint-related tasks. Forty-three samples were also collected under PPE. The geometric mean (GM) [geometric standard deviation (GSD)] total NCO concentrations (ng NCO cm-2) for unprotected skin (hands, face and forearms) was 1.9 (10.9) and range 0.0-64.4. pHDI species were the major contributor to the total NCO content. Levels were very variable, with the highest concentrations measured for clear coating and paint mixing tasks. Isocyanate skin exposure was also commonly detected under PPE, with 92% of samples above the limit of detection. Levels were very variable with the overall GM (GSD) total NCO (ng NCO cm-2) under PPE 1.0 (5.2) and range (0.0-47.0) and similar under the different PPE (glove, respirator and clothing). The highest concentrations were detected for mixing and spraying tasks, 6.9 (5.3) and 1.0 (5.2), respectively. Levels under PPE were generally lower than unpaired samples obtained with no PPE, but not statistically significant. Total isocyanate GM load on exposed skin and under PPE was commonly 100-300 ng NCO per sample, except for higher levels on exposed forearms during spraying (GM 5.9 μg NCO). Conclusions: A quantitative method was developed for skin sampling of isocyanates. Using this method, the study demonstrates that skin exposure to aliphatic polyisocyanates during painting, mixing and paint-related tasks in auto body shop workers is common and also commonly detected under routine PPE.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-124
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of Occupational Hygiene
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Auto body refinishing
  • Dermal exposure assessment
  • Gloves
  • Isocyanates
  • PPE
  • Skin exposure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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