The manufacturing industry is involved in the extraction, processing and fabrication of raw materials to produce finished goods for consumers and businesses. The list of different manufacturing industries is extensive and ranges from food and agricultural to machinery and electronical manufacturing. Almost all products for sale today have been manufactured.
Vital to a thriving economy, the manufacturing sector employs around 12 million people in the United States alone and is responsible for a large portion of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). In Canada, manufacturing provides over 1.7 million jobs and more than 10% of the GDP.
The production of chemicals plays a major role in the manufacturing sector and supplies a number of other industries including construction, motor vehicles, paper, electronics, transportation and agriculture. Converting raw materials such as oil, natural gas, water, metals and minerals into more than 70,000 products, the chemical industry contributes significantly to the world economy.
Workers in the chemical industry come into contact with a wide range of substances that can have a dire effect on their health and welfare. Depending on the specific chemical produced, volatile organic compound (VOC) fumes and dusts created during the manufacturing process can negatively impact worker health when inhaled. Chemical dusts that are combustible present a risk of fire and explosion which could lead to worker death and destruction of company property.
Chemicals produced in industrial processes pose a number of health risks to workers when inhaled on a regular basis. Some, like ammonia and sulfur dioxide, are irritants that can cause a number of health issues including:
Other chemicals are far more toxic to humans. Benzene, bromine, powdered inks and pigments, sodium azide and formaldehyde are mutagens and may cause cancer with exposure.
The manufacturing of chemicals produces VOC fumes that can damage worker health. Industrial workers exposed to VOCs such as benzene and formaldehyde run the risk of developing a number of health problems including cancer.
Short-term, high exposure to VOCs can lead to:
Long-term, high exposure to VOCs pose an even greater threat to worker health and could potentially cause conditions such as liver, kidney and central nervous system damage as well as cancer.
But worker illness is just one of the risks that businesses in the chemical industry have to contend with. Many of the chemicals used in the manufacture of pesticides, textiles and rubber are combustible. Failure to properly capture these dusts can directly result in employee injury or death as well as the destruction of company property.
Part of the chemical sector, the plastics industry is involved in the manufacturing of polymer materials. The third largest manufacturing industry in the United States, plastics supply a wide range of other sectors including packaging, building and construction, aerospace, electronics and transportation.
The manufacture of plastics produces a variety of chemicals that are hazardous to humans and the environment. Two of the main chemicals that the plastics industry relies upon, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and styrene, create toxic VOC fumes that are extremely hazardous to worker health.
A hard, lightweight and extremely versatile polymer, PVC is one of the most commonly used and produced plastic material. Highly toxic to humans, PVC contains a number of chemicals that pose serious health risks. The phthalates, dioxins and chlorine found in PVC can negatively impact worker health. Inhaled over time, chlorine can damage the lungs. Phthalates are endocrine disruptors and can interfere with healthy hormone production. Dioxins on the other hand are known carcinogens.
Other conditions caused by inhaling or ingesting PVC include:
A derivative of the toxic chemical benzene, styrene is a volatile organic compound (VOC). Exposure to styrene can negatively affect the lungs and ears. Even at low doses, styrene can irritate the respiratory tract. With long-term exposure, it can be toxic to the brain and nervous system and cause conditions such as:
Other dangerous byproducts of the plastic industry include: butane fume, hydrogen chloride, formaldehyde, acrolein and acetone. Exposure to these chemicals on a regular basis can irritate the respiratory tract and even lead to cancer.
Many plastic dusts are also combustible. To protect worker welfare and industrial property, employers need to implement engineered controls for the safe capture of explosible dusts. Installing a high performing wet dust collector or wet downdraft booth is a company’s best bet in controlling combustibles.
The eyewear industry manufactures accessories worn over the eyes to correct vision or to protect eyes from harmful light or debris. A 100 billion dollar industry globally, the eyewear sector is projected to reach around $182 billion USD by the end of 2023. Fueled by longer life spans, an increased ageing population, as well as new fashion trends featuring eyewear, the industry continues to grow rapidly.
To cut lenses for eyewear, workers in the industry often use grinding stations that create fine plastic dusts. These dusts can negatively impact worker health and cause respiratory problems.
Studies have also shown an increased risk of cancer among lens and metal frame workers in the eyewear industry. When compared to employees in other manufacturing sectors, they found that the lens workers were far more likely to develop cancer, particularly gastrointestinal and colorectal cancer. Exposure to toxic abrasives and cutting oil mists used in lens and frame fabrication were determined to be the cause.
The graphite industry is involved in the manufacture of synthetic graphite using carbon that contains raw materials such as tar pitch and petroleum cake. A versatile material, graphite is used in the fabrication of pencils as well as in industrial applications such as lubrication, refractories and foundry. Due to its high conductivity, graphite is also a component of many electronic products including batteries, electrodes and solar panels.
Because it is essential to the fabrication of electrical vehicle (EV) batteries, many experts believe that the demand for graphite will continue to grow. As sales of EV’s increase, so does the need for graphite. Valued at over $13 million in 2015, the graphite market is expected to exceed $18,000 million by 2022.
The manufacture and machining of graphite creates a lot of dust that can have a damaging effect on worker health and industry equipment.
While the degree of severity of health problems due to graphite exposure is under some dispute, there seems to be a strong correlation between the development of certain lung conditions and the manufacture and machining of graphite.
Some of the lesser health problems associated with graphite dust include irritation of the eyes, skin and nasal passages. In rare cases over extended periods, exposure to graphite dust has been associated with:
Scientists have attributed the coal tar and tar pitch used in synthetic graphite to be the likely cause of cancer in graphite workers.
To control dusts generated from the chemical, plastic, eyewear and graphite industries, Diveristech offers a number of cartridge dust collectors, ambient air cleaners and downdraft tables. For the safe capture of combustible dusts, one of our wet dust collectors or wet downdraft tables is recommended.