Stating that a substance is non-hazardous can be misleading implying to a reader that the risk to health is low. Deeper investigation can reveal information which suggests otherwise.
The aluminium extrusion industry uses a coating powder to ensure the pressing ram separates instantly and cleanly from the hot aluminium billet without pulling the extruded section from the die. A good example is a release agent known as Klüberpress E 2-802 where the Safety Data Sheet (Klüber Lubrication Australia Pty Ltd, 2012) states it is non-hazardous but lists exposure limits and a historically controversial ingredient, talc.
Talc is a hydrous silicate mineral composed of varying mineral components and has been associated with quartz and asbestos (Price, Industrial-grade talc exposure and the risk of mesothelioma, 2010). Early studies suggested that exposure to high levels of talc could lead to lung disease (Pickrell, et al., 1989). In contrast, recent studies found that “inhaled talc that does not contain asbestos or asbestiform fibres is not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity” (Baan, et al., 2006) and “scientific evidence is insufficient to infer a causal relationship between … talc and mesothelioma” (Price, 2010). Regardless, a person may have difficulty clearing inhaled particles from their lungs where they are exposed long term with enough quantity which may accumulate and become an encumbrance leading to inflammation, “cell injury, cell proliferation, fibrosis, induction of mutations and, ultimately, cancer” (Baan R. A., 2008)).
Individuals differ in how they metabolise substances and resulting toxic effects so it is necessary to reduce exposure to as low as reasonably practicable and monitor exposure and health ((Safe Work Australia, 2012) and (Safe Work Australia, 2013)). Air monitoring is used to measure and assess exposure to airborne contaminants. Organisations can then use the information to identify the necessary controls to reduce the risk to health such as eliminating the substance, engineering controls to reduce exposure or isolate the substance, substituting the substance for a less hazardous alternative and define the necessary personal protective equipment.
Baan, R. A. (2008). Carcinogenic Hazards from Inhaled Carbon Black, Titanium Dioxide and Talc not containing Asbestos or Asbestiform Fibers: Recent Evaluations by an IARC Monographs Working Group. Inhalation Toxicology, 19(Supplement 1), 213-228. doi:10.1080/08958370701497903
Baan, R., Straif, K., Grosse, Y., Secretan, B., Ghissassi, F. E., & Cogliono, V. (2006, April). Carcinogencity of carbon black, titanium dioxide and talc. The Lancet, 7, 295-296.
Klüber Lubrication Australia Pty Ltd. (2012). Klüberpress E 2-802. Material Safety Data Sheet. Retrieved 2014, from http://www.klueber.com/en/product-detail/id/511/
Pickrell, J. A., Snipes, M. B., Benson, J. M., Hanson, R. L., Jones, R. K., Carpenter, R. L., . . . Brown, S. C. (1989). Talc Deposition and Effects after 20 Days of Repeated Inhalation Exposure of Rats and Mice to Talc. Environmental Research, 49, 233-245.
Price, B. (2010, July). Industrial-grade talc exposure and the risk of mesothelioma. Informa Healthcare, 40(6), 513-530. doi:10.3109/10408441003646781
Safe Work Australia. (2012, April). Guidance on the Interpretation of Workplace Exposure Standards for Airborne Contaminants. Retrieved from Safe Work Australia: http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/SWA/about/Publications/Documents/771/Guidance-interpretation-workplace-exposure-standards.pdf
Safe Work Australia. (2013, April 18). Workplace Exposure Standards for Airborne Contaminants. Retrieved from Safe Work Australia: http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/SWA/about/Publications/Documents/772/Workplace-exposure-standards-airborne-contaminants.pdf
This post was prepared by Peta for the subject Screening and Monitoring in Occupational Health and Safety 2014