Protecting Workers From Dangerous Vapors

Protecting workers from hazards in the workplace such as exposure to dangerous chemicals is what students study in the environmental health and safety emphasis as part of the industrial management and technology degree program. Associate Professor Theodore J. Hogan, Ph.D. of Engineering Technology, had the chance to make an impact in this area of safety as he recently served on a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) committee of ten scientists from universities and research centers from across the United States to review “Department of Defense’s Approach to Deriving an Occupational Exposure Limit for Trichloroethylene (TCE).” This was part of a contract between the National Academy of Sciences and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).

TCE is used in the workplace as a degreasing agent, as a chemical intermediate in refrigerant manufacture, and as a component of spot removers and adhesives. Liquid TCE, a colorless, non-flammable chemical with a sweet odor, evaporates quickly into the air and its vapor can cause serious health issues. It is known as a human carcinogen. Exposure to moderate amounts of TCE can result in headaches, dizziness, and sleepiness; high exposure can cause coma and even death. Ingesting or inhaling high levels of TCE can cause facial nerve damage, and can interfere with heartbeat rhythm, and can cause damage to the liver and kidneys. TCE can cause rashes on the skin.

The DOD developed a proposed occupational exposure limit for TCE because the agency had concerns that the current occupational standards were inadequate to protect the DOD workers from exposure to the solvent’s vapors. Many military bases have groundwater and soil that contain TCE.  The NASEM committee reviewed the scientific and technical basis of DOD’s proposed approach to developing an occupational exposure level (OEL).

“This report is important to the safety of workers,” said Hogan. “I am honored to have been a part of this committee. It was an experience that I will share with our students studying environmental health and safety as part of the industrial management and technology bachelor’s degree program at NIU.”

Dr. Hogan said, “One reason I was chosen for the NAS committee is that I am actively involved in developing occupational exposure levels, as a member of the ACGIH Threshold Limit Values (TLV) Chemical Substances Committee.” Read more about ACGIH at https://www.acgih.org/tlv-bei-guidelines/policies-proedures-presentations/overview Students learn about and apply threshold limit values in many NIU courses, including TECH 433 Chemical Hazards in Industry, which Prof. Hogan teaches in the fall semester.

The full report is available at http://nap.edu/25610. Follow #NIUEngineeringTECH to learn more about scholarly activities and services in NIU Department of Engineering Technology. #NIUCEET #EngineeringTechnology

 

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