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HEALTH CONSULTATION

U.S. ARCHITECTURAL - HEALTH IMPLICATIONS OF EXPOSURE
MALVERN, HOT SPRINGS COUNTY, ARKANSAS


BACKGROUND AND STATEMENT OF ISSUES

U. S. Architectural produces molding from medium density fiber board (MDF). Air-borne particulate matter generated in the manufacturing process is collected in a common air stream prior to treatment via a cyclone. The particles remaining in the airstream are then discharged to the environment.

Employees at Davis Lumber Co., located downwind of U. S. Architectural, stated that they have been experiencing severe recurrent nose bleeds, respiratory infections, recurrent sinus infections and inflamation, and eye irritation as a result of exposure to MDF particulate matter being discharged from the U. S. Architectural cyclone. Therefore, the Arkansas Department of Pollution Control and Ecology (ADPC&E) requested that the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) evaluate whether exposure to medium density fiber board particulate matter may result in adverse health effects. (1)


DISCUSSION

On June 11, 1998 ADH conducted an inspection of the U. S. Architectural facility in Malvern, Arkansas. The facility purchases MDF, cuts it into strips, and shapes the strips into molding with a router. The molding is then sanded, painted, and dried before it is packaged for marketing. The saw used to cut the MDF into strips is completely enclosed, and an exhaust hood located above the saw captures particulate matter from the process for incorporation into the air waste-stream. The router and sanding equipment are not enclosed, although a small hood is located above the router which collects some particulate matter. No particulate control equipment is located on the sander. Dust and particulate matter had accumulated on surfaces and the floor in the equipment area. The paint is dried using an infrared process which generates heat as a by-product.

The air waste-stream is discharged into a cyclone located directly behind the U.S. Architectural building. Large amounts of particulate matter are discharged from the cyclone during operation. A tarp has been tied over the top of the cyclone to partially control emissions. The tarp is not effective in controlling particulate emissions. The cyclone collecter is emptied into an open-top trailer. When the trailer is full it is removed and replaced by an empty trailer. The ground around the cyclone is covered with particulate matter which appears to have been deposited primarily by the cyclone and secondarily by particles blown from the open trailer onto the ground.

Davis Lumber Company is located downwind from U. S. Architectural when winds are blowing in the direction of prevailing wind patterns. Large amounts of particulate matter from the cyclone at U. S. Architectural are deposited at the lumber company from one to four times a week . Deposition of particles on employees vehicles, in the stockroom, and on the store front of the lumber company have been documented. Employees exposed to these particles have experienced severe eye irritation, which in some cases has required using the eye wash station. The manager stated that employees have also complained of nose bleeds (some severe enough to require medical attention), respiratory congestion, recurrent sinus inflamation and infections, and respiratory difficulty at night (one employee) which they believe are attributable to exposure to MDF particulate matter. The plant manager also reported that a physician has documented that one employee has an inflamed sinus cavity.

When the wind direction shifts, the discharge from the cyclone is blown toward ARC/Winco, a windshield installation facility located adjacent to U. S. Architectural. Employees of ARC/Winco have reported skin rashes, light headaches, and some sinus problems that they attribute to exposure to the cyclone discharge. One person has an enlarged heart and reported an exacerbation of the heart problem following exposure to the discharged particles. Deposition of particles on windshields in the windshield installation room of the facility and on vehicles have been documented.

Employees from other facilities located in the vicinity of U. S. Architectural were interviewed and reported no health complaints. There are no residences adjacent to the facility.

On June 30, 1998, ADH conducted particulate sampling (Table 1.) The samples collected at Davis Lumber Company were taken in the plume of particles being discharged from the cyclone when possible, however wind direction was variable on the day samples were collected. The samples collected at 12:55 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. were collected when the wind was blowing directly from the cyclone toward the lumber company. The remaining samples were collected while the wind direction was variable (i.e. wind blowing directly over the U.S. Architectural building and shifting to blow toward Davis Lumber Company.) Samples collected at ARC Winco and Phelan's Pharmacy were utilized as background samples.

MDF contains formaldehyde. The established occupational standards for formaldehyde on wood dust are a Time Weighted Average (TWA) of 0.016 parts per million and a Ceiling (CLG) limit of 0.1 parts per million. (2) Acute respiratory formaldehyde exposure is characterized by irritation of the mucosal membranes of the eyes and upper respiratory tract leading to lacrimation, rhinitis, and pharyngitis. (3) Other effects seen from exposure to high levels of formaldehyde are coughing, wheezing, chest pains, and bronchitis. (4) These symptoms are consistent with those reported by the complainants. The amount of formaldehyde in the plume particles could not be quantified because ADH does not have the capability to analyze particulate samples for formaldehyde. Because of the resultant data gap, it cannot be determined if symptoms in the exposed population may have been caused by formaldehyde exposure from the particles, or by the irritant nature of the particles.


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