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Curr Opin Pulm Med. 2014 Mar;20(2):199-204. doi: 10.1097/MCP.0000000000000029.

Nonoccupational and occupational exposure to isocyanates.

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Expertise Centre Environmental Medicine (ECEMed), Rijnstate Teaching Hospital Arnhem, Velp, the Netherlands.



This review aims to update the knowledge on the burden of disease due to exposure to isocyanates. Health effects of isocyanates and their major products, polyurethanes, are mainly determined by sensitization to isocyanates. Recent studies on the genetic factors to explain individual susceptibility to sensitization are reviewed.


Production of isocyanates has rapidly increased in the past and is predicted to increase at an annual rate of around 5%. Consumer products and the construction area are the main drivers of growth. This leads to increased nonoccupational exposure. The use of sprayed polyurethane foams for insulation in existing homes is one such example of nonoccupational exposure. The percentage of people exposed who show health effects is not known. Occupational exposure increases are mainly caused by the increase in the workforce. The percentage of workers exhibiting health effects remained fairly stable at 5-15% in the last decade. To explain why not all people exposed to isocyanates develop adverse health effects, recent findings on sensitization to isocyanate are reviewed. The skin is the most important route for sensitization.


Increased production of isocyanates and rising use of these substances in consumer products is leading to an increased burden of disease, with an increase in nonoccupational exposure as well. Sensitization to isocyanates is the main route for adverse health effects. The skin is the major route for sensitization. Recently, several genetic factors have been identified that play a role in the individual susceptibility for sensitization.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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