No major problems found at Renosol

Published 7:49 pm Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Initial results from an investigation into Renosol’s Craig Field plant haven’t found any serious problems with a chemical called TDI, a company spokesperson said Wednesday.

Lear Corporation, which owns car seat manufacturer Renosol, began an investigation Tuesday, following employee accusations of a disregard for safety. Initial tests haven’t produced any concerning results, spokesperson Tom DiDonato said.

“If there is a major issue, it’s something that should be found fairly quickly,” DiDonato said. “We will continue the investigation and take every precaution possible, but there is nothing that is a red flag right now.”

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TDI, officially named Toluene disocyanate, is toxic for both short- and long-term exposure, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA’s website said chronic inhalation of TDI can result in asthma-like symptoms and significant decreases in lung function.

Employees said repeated exposure and high concentrations of TDI are causing asthma-like reactions among employees. A news release from a public relations firm representing the employees stated 75 percent of the 90 workers at the plant suffer from some type of respiratory illness associated with TDI.

One of the tests conducted by investigators measured air quality in the plant. DiDonato said the test results weren’t enough to be concerning.

DiDonato also addressed the rampant smell of the chemical on worker’s clothing after leaving work.

“One of the things you will hear is the noticeable chemical smell,” he said. “It is always present in foam plants. That does not mean it is dangerous.”

A small team of Lear employees are currently at Renosol’s plant, but DiDonato said an independent group would later confirm or deny Lear’s findings.

The investigation stems from an employee letter, delivered to management on May 8. The letter addresses a specific incident on May 1, when TDI reportedly began to leak into the air. The letter states management put a diaper — a combination of fabric and plastic — on the leak following the incident. After the leak was temporarily repaired with the diaper, employees continued to work, Renosol employee Kimberly King said. A few days later, management made a more permanent fix, King said.

King said alarms monitoring TDI have sounded frequently recently. King said the alarms signal high concentrations of the chemical. However, DiDonato said monitoring alarms can sound for many different reasons, including high humidity.