Biological Monitoring in The Workplace
Simple easy Monitoring
What is Biological Monitoring?
Many different workplace tasks in many different industries involve using chemicals which can be harmful to health if they are not properly controlled. The employer must ensure that exposure to chemicals is either prevented or if that is not possible it should be properly controlled. Biological monitoring is used to assess exposure to a chemical, by the measurement of a chemical or its breakdown products in urine or breath.
It can be used as part of an overall strategy for controlling hazardous chemicals within the workplace, by reducing uncertainty in relation to the effectiveness of the control measures in place (e.g. engineering control measures or PPE) and by monitoring work practices. A urine sample from the person being tested is ideal for biological monitoring.
As part of your health surveillance strategy
Biological monitoring in the workplace is an element of health surveillance which can be used in the assessment of the risks to health as an integral part of an occupational health and safety programme. Health surveillance is not a substitute for control measures. Biological monitoring is particularly useful where chemicals can be significantly absorbed through the skin and where controls rely upon the use of personal protective equipment, such as gloves and masks. Biological monitoring data reflects the total absorption of a chemical by an individual through all routes of exposure (inhalation, ingestion, absorption through the skin or a combination of these routes) and thus represents the individual’s actual exposure level.
The aim of biological monitoring
The aim of biological monitoring is to detect hazardous substances in the body before adverse health effects occur. It is thus aimed to prevent rather than detect adverse changes. This biological data can therefore provide a better measure of risk than is possible through air/environmental monitoring and is complementary to this. We offer guidance on setting up a biological monitoring workplace scheme (Biological monitoring in the workplace). We also offer a wide variety of tests to assess chemical exposures and specific details on sampling etc. can be obtained from the laboratory.
Biological monitoring for isocyanates
Isocyanates are widely used in industry but are particularly prevalent in spray painting, foam and polyurethane manufacture and in adhesives. Healthscreen recommends that vehicle spray painters undertake biological monitoring annually to check that exposure is being adequately controlled. Biological Monitoring can be arranged as part of your health surveillance (health surveillance is required for workers using isocyanates). Isocyanates are most prevalent in the motor vehicle repair (MVR) industry, for example:
- Two-pack spray paints (e.g. hexamethylene diisocyanate, HDI).
- Some glues and hard wearing plastics (e.g. toluene diisocyanate, TDI).
- Making, cutting, grinding or heating polyurethane foams (e.g. methylene diphenylene diisocyanate, MDI).
- Production of polyurethane paints, varnishes and elastomers (e.g. isophorone diisocyanate, IPDI).
To control the risk of asthma, isocyanate exposure in your employees needs to be kept at very low levels. Even brief exposures to isocyanates can cause sensitisation. Once a person has been sensitised, exposure to low levels can still cause an asthma attack. The law requires employers to control exposure to isocyanates to a level which is as low as is reasonably practicable. But as an employer, how can you tell whether you are doing enough to control the exposure of your employees to isocyanates?
Biological monitoring for lead
Your body absorbs lead when you breathe in lead dust fume or vapour or swallow any lead for example if you eat, drink, smoke or bite you nails without washing your hands and face.Initially, lead poisoning can be hard to detect — even people who seem healthy can have high blood levels of lead. Signs and symptoms usually don't appear until dangerous amounts have accumulated. Although children are primarily at risk, lead poisoning is also dangerous for adults. Signs and symptoms in adults may include:
- High blood pressure
- Abdominal pain
- Joint pains
- Muscle pain
- Declines in mental functioning
- Pain, numbness or tingling of the extremities
- Memory loss
- Mood disorders
- Reduced sperm count, abnormal sperm
- Miscarriage or premature birth in pregnant women
However,if adequate control measures are in place exposure and it's symptoms are preventable. Biological monitoring is a simple and cost-effective way of checking that control measures are working and being used correctly.
Biological Monitoring Services We Offer
Healthscreen can provide the following biological monitoring (Urinalysis only):
- Methylenedianiline (MDA)
- Nickel & Chrome Combined
- Thallium (UKAS accredited method)
- Total Protein and Albumin
- Ethlybenzene with xylene
- Cyanide & other organonitriles
Others available upon request
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