Diseases Caused by Acrylonitrile

1. Introduction and Definitions

Acrylonitrile is a colorless, volatile liquid with a pungent odor, primarily used in the manufacture of plastics, synthetic rubber, and acrylic fibers. It is highly flammable and toxic, posing significant health risks to workers exposed to it. Prolonged exposure can lead to various health issues, including respiratory, cardiovascular, and neurological problems, as well as an increased risk of cancer. This article provides comprehensive information on diseases caused by acrylonitrile, targeting occupational health nurses and doctors.

2. Agent Causes the Disease

Acrylonitrile exposure occurs primarily through inhalation of its vapors, but it can also be absorbed through the skin or ingested. The compound is metabolized in the body to cyanide, which contributes to its toxicity. It is used in the production of various synthetic materials, making occupational exposure a significant concern.

3. Workers at Risk of This Disease

Several occupations and tasks put workers at higher risk of acrylonitrile exposure, including:

  • Plastic Manufacturing Workers: Involved in the production of acrylonitrile-based plastics and resins.
  • Synthetic Rubber Production Workers: Handling acrylonitrile in the manufacture of synthetic rubber.
  • Acrylic Fiber Production Workers: Exposed during the production of acrylic fibers used in textiles.
  • Chemical Plant Workers: Handling acrylonitrile in various chemical processes.
  • Laboratory Technicians: Using acrylonitrile as a reagent in research and testing.
  • Waste Treatment Workers: Managing and disposing of acrylonitrile-contaminated waste.

4. Symptoms

Symptoms of diseases caused by acrylonitrile exposure can vary depending on the level and duration of exposure:

  • Acute Exposure: Symptoms include headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, weakness, and eye and respiratory tract irritation. High levels of exposure can lead to cyanosis, convulsions, and respiratory failure.
  • Chronic Exposure: Long-term exposure can cause respiratory problems, skin irritation, liver and kidney damage, cardiovascular issues, and neurological effects such as headaches, dizziness, and cognitive impairments. There is also an increased risk of certain cancers, particularly lung and bladder cancer.

5. Diagnosis

Diagnosing diseases caused by acrylonitrile involves a combination of clinical evaluation, occupational exposure assessment, and specific tests:

  • Medical History and Physical Examination: Detailed assessment of the patient's work history and symptoms.
  • Blood Tests: Measuring cyanide and thiocyanate levels as biomarkers of acrylonitrile exposure.
  • Pulmonary Function Tests: To assess respiratory impairment.
  • Liver and Kidney Function Tests: Monitoring organ function for signs of damage.
  • Neurological Evaluation: Including tests for cognitive and motor function.
  • Imaging Tests: X-rays or MRIs to detect organ damage and potential tumors.

6. Treatment

Treatment for diseases caused by acrylonitrile focuses on managing symptoms and preventing further exposure:

  • Remove from Exposure: Immediate removal from the source of acrylonitrile exposure is crucial.
  • Symptomatic Treatment: Providing medications to manage respiratory, cardiovascular, and neurological symptoms. Oxygen therapy may be needed for respiratory distress.
  • Antidotal Therapy: Administering antidotes for cyanide poisoning, such as sodium thiosulfate or hydroxocobalamin.
  • Supportive Care: Including hydration, pain management, and monitoring of liver and kidney function.
  • Long-term Monitoring: Regular follow-up to monitor respiratory, neurological, and overall health status.

7. Prevention

Preventing diseases caused by acrylonitrile involves implementing strict control measures in the workplace:

  • Engineering Controls: Using local exhaust ventilation, enclosed processes, and proper maintenance of equipment to reduce airborne exposure.
  • Work Practices: Implementing safe work practices such as proper handling and disposal of acrylonitrile-containing materials, and avoiding eating, drinking, or smoking in areas where acrylonitrile is used.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Providing and ensuring the use of appropriate respirators, protective clothing, and gloves.
  • Health Surveillance: Regular health screenings, including blood tests and pulmonary function tests for workers exposed to acrylonitrile.
  • Education and Training: Informing workers about the hazards of acrylonitrile and safe work practices to minimize exposure.

By recognizing the hazards of acrylonitrile exposure and applying effective preventive strategies, occupational health professionals can substantially lower the occurrence of related illnesses and improve the overall health and safety of workers.

Workplace Exposure Limits:

  • OSHA PEL (Permissible Exposure Limit):

    • Time-Weighted Average (TWA): 2 ppm (parts per million) averaged over an 8-hour workshift.
    • Short-Term Exposure Limit (STEL): 10 ppm (not to be exceeded during any 15-minute work period).
  • NIOSH REL (Recommended Exposure Limit):

    • TWA: 1 ppm (averaged over a 10-hour workshift).
    • STEL: 10 ppm (not to be exceeded during any 15-minute work