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Follow up: Contaminated PU foams do not pose a health hazard / Agitation in German mattress industry

Follow up: Contaminated PU foams do not pose a health hazard / Agitation in German mattress industryMainly mattress manufacturers are affected by the incident at BASF (Photo: PIE)The 1,4-dichlorobenzene (DCB) contamination of TDI that was produced and delivered by BASF (Ludwigshafen / Germany; www.basf.com) is evidently not quite as dramatic as had been first assumed (see Plasteurope.com of 13.10.2017).

BASF experts have conducted initial examinations of contaminated foams as part of a risk assessment. "The results and further calculations show that no health risk is to be assumed," a group spokesman explained. The measured values were considerably below the reference value taken as a benchmark for the emission of DCB from foam, that is, the limit for workplace concentrations.

As reported to Plasteurope.com, despite this, a large number of converters are still upset because they feel BASF informed them too late and without enough details. In the light of the dramatic increase in the price of TDI since 2016, coupled with more than tidy profit margins, there are some participants asking why BASF does not conduct checks more often than once a month.

The ministry of environment for the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate (www.mueef.rlp.de) is still examining the case. There are no analysis results that contradict BASF's assessment, it says. What has not yet been definitively verified, by contrast, is the workplace safety of those employed in the processing industry, a spokesman explained.

A number of mattress manufacturers who have been affected also confirmed BASF's assessment after conducting their own investigations. Regarding the finished foams and products made from them, two German companies Dunlopillo Deutschland (Frankfurt; www.dunlopillo.de) and Thomas Sitz- und Liegemöbel (Bremervörde; www.lattoflex.de) are among those who have reported that while the TDI limits were exceeded, "the original fears were greater than the measurable results," said "Lattoflex" managing director Boris Thomas. Dunlopillo similarly confirmed that "the DCB values are below the limits that recognised institutes (...) regard as harmful."

Despite this, both companies had halted production at short notice and recalled mattress products based on the existence of a potential health hazard, and in these cases at least, the purely economic damage can be regarded as limited. Klaus Junginger, managing director of the German plastic and polyurethane foams industry association Fachverband Schaumkunststoffe und Polyurethane (FSK, Frankfurt; www.fsk-vsv.de), stressed the damage to the image of the FSK?s 160 members "is regarded as extensive." He also confirmed that, in 90% of cases, mattresses and similar products have been affected by the incident.

A total of around 2,500 t of TDI had already been processed at the time BASF issued the warning. According to information coming out of Ludwigshafen, this corresponds to roughly 7,500 t or 150,000 m³ of finished PU foams ? depending on the formulation used by each foams manufacturer.16.10.2017 Plasteurope.com [238154-0]

» Publication Date: 16/10/2017

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement N° 690103