Employees working at Royale Comfort Seating in Taylorsville, N.C. were tasked with sitting for 10 hours straight stretching spray glued pieces of polyurethane foam into shapes that would be sold to furniture stores to be filled as spongy cushions. The glue contained n-propyl bromide and also left a yellowish fog in the air that coated everything around them. The workers who were exposed to the fumes would almost become intoxicated by the end of the day.
Many of the workers exposed developed long term ailments. One worker experiences immense pain in her spine when sitting or standing for periods of 20 minutes at a time. Another worker is no longer able to put clothes on due to the fact they can no longer control their hands.
Medical experts have long warned that inhaling this chemical for long periods of time at low doses can cause neurological damage. These workers were exposed because Royale Comfort was looking to save money.
Royal Comfort says that they were under pressure by Chinese manufacturers doing the job cheaper and this is why they cut corners. They refused to ventilate the area with the fumes and when fans were purchased they turned them off. They also refused to equip workers with respirators.
OSHA can only impose a small fine because there is not a ban on the use of nPB. This is a tragic case as workers deserve to br protected and be safe in a work environment. Hopefully this case can bring about changes and new laws can be passed to ensure that something like this does not happen again.
Source: NY Times