Isocyanates Sampling – Quantifying Worker Exposures

Insight IH Consulting has numerous assessments that have included isocyanates sampling, including assisting with OSHA responses.


Isocyanates are a family of highly reactive, low molecular weight chemicals. They are widely used in the manufacture of flexible and rigid foams, fibers, coatings such as paints and varnishes, and elastomers, and are increasingly used in the automobile industry, autobody repair, and building insulation materials.

Health effects of isocyanate exposure include irritation of skin and mucous membranes, chest tightness, and difficult breathing. Isocyanates include compounds classified as potential human carcinogens and known to cause cancer in animals. The main effects of hazardous exposures are occupational asthma and other lung problems, as well as irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and skin.

Isocyanates can also sensitize employees through either inhalation or dermal exposures. This sensitization can subject employees to severe asthma attacks if exposed again. This is greatly concerning, as sensitization can force affected individuals to change work positions or even careers due to their exposure. Some types of isocyanates commonly encountered in industry include:

Hexamethylene diisocyanate (HDI)
Isophorone diisocyanate (IPDI)
Methylene bis (4-cyclohexylisocyanate) (HMDI)
Methylene bisphenyl isocyanate (MDI)
Toluene diisocyanate (2,4- and 2,6-) (TDI)

Additional Information, Links

Isocyanates provide challenges to many employers. Some references of interest are shown below:
Inhalation Exposure to Isocyanates of Car Body Repair Shop Workers and Industrial Spray Painters
Skin Exposure to Isocyanates: Reasons for Concern
Potential Chemical Exposures From Spray Polyurethane Foam

Assessment Methodology

OSHA’s preferred method for isocyanates sampling is the IsoChek method. There are additional options available, including impregnated sampling media and the Supelco ASSET sampler. The ASSET is appealing because it can produce results for both polymeric and monomeric forms of multiple isocyanates.

Insight IH Consulting has extensive experience in industrial hygiene assessments for isocyanates. We are well versed in the use of the different methods, and can select a strategy that is best for your operations.

Contact us for assistance with isocyanate assessments today!