Paints & Coatings Resource Center

Ask the Expert Question-and-Answer Archive

by Ron Joseph

February, 2007

Safety Information for Polyurethanes

Q: I am employed at a ship maintenance facility. Our typical coating schemes are changing from basic alkyd based primers and enamels to epoxy primers, top coated with poly-urethane.

The coating applicators have started to express concerns about exposure to chemicals they have not had to deal with in the past (ie; isocynates in the urethane). There has been two cases, that I know of, where workers have showed physical symptoms from exposure to chemicals in paint. One of the workers has gotten a rash that progressively got larger to the point that it covered large portions of his arms and legs. The other worker had his feet, armpits and half of his face swell, cause pain and discomfort. The applicators are very aware of the safety precautions to be taken, however some degree of exposure is inevitable.

I would like to know if any one else who works in the coating industry has any first hand knowledge of  similar cases. If so, has there been any changes to the coating schemes specified.  

The safety department and management at our site has determined that "Urethane will not be sprayed because of the release of isocynates that occurs during atomization. Application will be done by brush and roller." Does the drying and curing process not release these chemicals regardless of method of application? 

A: Thousands of painters throughout industry use polyurethanes safely by wearing appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The paint manufacturers and especially the manufacturers of polydiisocyanates (which are the curing agents for polyurethanes) can provide you with reams of information on the health hazards of these chemicals, and procedures to prevent harmful exposures. I suggest that you visit the Bayer web site.  I entered “safety Bayer hexamethylene diisocyanate” into Google and found a source for your information:,IBMA:2006-41,IBMA:en&q=bayer+hexamethylene+diisocyanate+safety


Ron Joseph

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