The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recently issued a hazard alert to urge employers that use 1-bromopropane, or 1-BP, to take appropriate steps to protect workers from exposure. 1-BP, also known as n-propyl bromide, is used in vapor immersion and degreasing operations for cleaning metals and other materials, and is utilized in solvent sprays for aircraft maintenance.
"The use of 1-bromopropane has increased in workplaces over the last 20 years," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. "Workers exposed to this toxic chemical can suffer serious health effects, even long after exposure has ended. Hazardous exposure to 1-BP must be prevented. Employers have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their workers."
The hazard alert was issued in response to information on the increased use of 1-BP as a substitute for other solvents as well as recent reports of overexposure in furniture manufacturing. Exposure to 1-BP has been associated with damage to the nervous system among workers, and it has been shown to cause reproductive harm in animal studies. 1-BP was nominated as a chemical of concern in OSHA's Web Forum to Identify Hazardous Chemicals.
Workers can be exposed to 1-BP by breathing in vapors or spray mists and by absorption through the skin. The most effective way to protect workers from exposure, according to OSHA and NIOSH, is to eliminate the use of 1-BP, substituting the chemical with a less toxic substance or less hazardous material. Replacement chemicals also may have associated hazards that need to be considered and controlled.
Engineering controls to reduce worker exposure to 1-BP include isolation of workplace operations and the installation of proper ventilation systems. Other controls, such as a reduction in the time a worker is exposed to the chemical, should also be considered.
The hazard alert can be viewed online at OSHA's website.