The federal Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services have concluded that health problems of people located near polyurethane foam plants in North Carolina are not caused by exposure to toluene diisocyanate or TDI, a chemical consumed in manufacturing flexible polyurethane foam used in mattresses and other products.
“We did not find a scientific connection between respiratory problems and exposure to TDI. Overall, we did not find that people living near the plants that emit TDI have recent or current exposure to TDI at levels of health concern,” according to a study released by the federal agency and the N.C. health department.
Researchers collected air samples to determine the presence of TDI from 10 N.C. communities in four counties. Half were near facilities with reported TDI emissions (target areas); half were communities farther away from TDI plants. They also took blood samples from 161 people who lived in target areas and 190 who lived in comparison areas. Target areas included communities near plants operated by Carpenter Co., Foamex (now FXI), Hickory Springs Mfg. Co., Olympic Products and Prestige Fabricators.
Of the 251 persons tested, only one had TDI antibodies. The Polyurethane Foam Association cautions, however, that antibody tests can produce false positives. Further, the presence of antibodies doesn’t necessarily indicate that an individual’s health has been harmed or tell when, if any, TDI exposure occurred or the source of the exposure.
Of the 45 air samples taken from target areas and 34 from comparison areas, researchers detected TDI in only one sample from a target area, and even then at a level of only 1 part per trillion. According to the report, 1 ppt is “a very small amount of TDI” and is below the lifetime exposure level of 10 ppt that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers safe.
The full report is viewable online, “NC Community TDI Report.”