Ten workers suffered from respiratory complaints after spray impregnation of hardwood furniture with a waterproofing product that contained a fluorinated acrylate copolymer in an aqueous suspension. One litre of the product was sprayed during 4 min inside a workshop area with a volume of ca. 2 400 m3. A worker, who entered the workshop 3 h after the impregnation, was hospitalised with dyspnea, severe hypoxia, cough, blank sputum, fever, tremors and tingling extremities. Later a severe chemical pneumonitis was diagnosed. On the following morning, 15 h after the impregnation, nine workers in an adjacent room of 1 200 m3 in the same building experienced the following respiratory symptoms: dry cough, chest tightness and sub-sternal chest pain. No other sources of causative exposure could be identified. Reconstruction of the spray application in a 20 m3 steel chamber showed trimethyl silanol, glycol ethers and fluoroalkenes as major volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The fluoroalkenes reached their maximum concentrations 1–2 h after application and persisted in the gas phase along with trimethyl silanol and the glycol ethers. Immediately after the spray application aerosols were observed in a maximum concentration of 6.3 × 104 cm–3 (5.6 to 560 nm). Mass concentrations were 0.095 and 10 mg/m3 in the size ranges 5.6 to 560 nm and 0.22 to 30 µm, respectively. After 15 h the mass concentrations of the airborne particle had decreased to values less than 10 µg/m3 in both size ranges. The worker who developed chemical pneumonitis was a smoker. We hypothesise that rolling and smoking cigarettes contaminated with fluoropolymer was causative. The respiratory symptoms in the 9 workers exposed 15 hours after the spray event may be caused by combined exposure to trimethyl silanol, glycol ethers and fluoroalkenes, which persisted in the gas phase up to 24 h after application of the product.
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