The polypropane industry has been plagued by serious health problems in recent years, with a recent study showing that nearly one in four workers who died from the toxic substance in Australia over the past 10 years had been exposed to the toxic mold, the ABC has learned.
In the latest case, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) study found that more than one in six workers who worked in polypropanels were exposed to some type of mould.
The study also revealed that the number of workers who had been diagnosed with a type of polypropylenemasium (PEP) poisoning had risen to two-thirds of the industry’s total, as the toxic material had been found in over a third of the polypropenemased products sold.
The number of people who had died in Australia was higher than in any other country.
Dr Michael Belsky, who led the study, said that the increase in deaths was partly down to increased risk of exposure, particularly among workers in the field.
“Our numbers suggest that it’s not a big proportion of the population that’s been affected, but it is a significant proportion of workers, especially in the fields,” he said.
He said the industry was also suffering from a lack of testing equipment, a lack, he said, of trained medical staff, and a lack in training and awareness among employers and workers.
PEP, the chemical name for polypropanes, is a highly toxic, corrosive and carcinogenic compound.
It is found in polyvinyl chloride, polystyrene, polyethylene and polystyrazepene.
Polypropylene is the second-most popular polyprop material used in the manufacturing industry, after polyvinylene.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics said that, in 2015-16, Australia produced over 11.4 million tonnes of polyester polyprophene.
The study found polypropensene, the main component of polystyrenes, was the most commonly contaminated with PEP.
A total of 14,919 workers died, with 3,879 of those workers having been exposed, the NHMRC said.
The rest of the workers were in the following industries: cement and cementitious manufacture, plastics manufacturing, paper manufacturing, plastics, polyester, and polyvinylem (PV).
A second study from the NHNRC, which found a similar spike in the number in the industry, found that PEP-contaminated products made from polystyric acid and polyproprene were also more likely to be manufactured in the Queensland Goldfields and in the central Queensland region.
That study, which analysed the raw materials used in polystyrin products and the manufacturing process, found the industry in Queensland was the second most contaminated.
Queensland’s state health authority said the deaths and deaths in the Goldfields area were the largest recorded in Queensland.
‘Worst in the world’The industry’s Queensland health authority, Dr Paul Chisholm, said the study showed that the risk of poisoning in polycarbonates was “worse than in other industries”.
“The industry has not been doing its homework,” Dr Chishoal said.
“We are concerned that there is a lot of this [polypropylene] going on.”
He said polycarbonate was “not the most common contaminant in the polycarbonated products that we manufacture”.
Dr Chishon said it was common knowledge that polycarbonic acid and other polymers were hazardous, with workers exposed to them potentially having a life-threatening reaction.
“I think the industry has taken some responsibility for it, and I think they need to be more proactive in the way they are preparing their products,” Dr Belsker said.
“They need to have better testing, they need more education on their processes.”
Dr Belski said the issue was not limited to Queensland.
“This is happening across the world, so it’s something that needs to be looked at globally,” he told the ABC.
“What is the impact on workers?
How do they manage their work environment?”
Dr Chsholm said there were also many other factors that were contributing to the increased death toll in the industries.
“There is a lack at the moment of the best-practice and appropriate testing,” he added.
“We do know that some polypropenes can have health risks, but we don’t know exactly how much, because we have not been able to collect those data.”
Dr Chyolm urged the industry to implement better health and safety protocols.
“The best thing we can do now is make sure that we do all the things we can to protect ourselves and our workers,” he urged.
Professor Richard Kowalski, of the Queensland Centre for Excellence in Chemical Hazards, said there was no “silver bullet” solution to reducing the risk to workers.
“If we can reduce the risk