Occupational health data as a basis for process engineering changes: Development of a safe work environment in the sodium azide industry

  • Helga E. Rippen
  • Steven H. Lamm
  • Peter G. Nicoll
  • Larry Cummings
  • Gregory Howearth
  • Dave Thayer


The development of an occupational health system for a plant manufacturing sodium azide has had to confront biological and hygienic difficulties related to the nature of sodium azide. Sodium azide in pellet form is used as the nitrogen generant for automobile air bags; however, it is manufactured as a very fine powder making exposure control more difficult. Sodium azide is a rapidly active, vasodilatory hypotensive agent that causes headaches and drops in blood pressure. Occupational health assessment of the plant and its employees demonstrated the need for exposure control, based on inspection, interviews, health data, process and site review. Targeted studies demonstrated the nature and magnitude of health effect problems at this plant and the relationship to azide exposure. Engineering and hygiene changes were developed in response to the evidence of worker exposure demonstrated by the targeted studies. The occupational health surveillance system provided a monitor for temporal changes. Results appear to demonstrate over the period of the development of the program, the following changes: (1) reductions in evidence of subjective symptoms from azide exposure (health incident reports of headaches and other symptoms), (2) reductions in objective signs of effects from azide exposure (drops in cross-shift mean arterial blood pressures), and (3) reductions in measured levels of azide exposure. Future studies need to validate the evidence of exposure changes and to further identify additional sources of exposure. Interventions designed to reduce exposures need to be demonstrated to be effective and need to be monitored to demonstrate continuing effectiveness.


Azide Occupational Health Sodium Azide Exposure Control Hypotensive Agent 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Trochimowicz HJ, et al. (1994) Heterocyclic and miscellaneous nitrogen compounds. In: Clayton GD, Clayton FE (eds) Patty's Industrial Hygiene and Toxicology. John Wiley & Sons, New York, pp 3426–3428Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists Inc. Documentation of the Threshold Limit Values and Biological Exposure Indices, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1991, pp 1403–1407Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Smith RP, et al. (1991) Acute neurotoxicity of sodium azide and nitric oxide. Fundam Appl Toxicol 17:120–127Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Hitt JM (1992) Automobile airbag industry toxic exposures. In: Sullivan JB, Krieger GR (eds) Hazardous Materials Toxicology, Principles of Environmental Health. Baltimore, pp 533–537Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Weiss J (1996) Reactive airway dysfunctional syndrome due to sodium azide inhalation. (1995 Medichem Congress) Int Arch Occup Environ Health 68:469–471Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Black MM, et al. (1954) Comparison of hypotensive action of sodium azide in normotensive and hypertensive patients. Proc Exp Bio Med 85:11–16Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Abrams J, et al. (1987) Suicidal sodium azide ingestion. Ann Emerg Med 100:1378–1380Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Esswein E, Trout T, Hales H (1995) NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation Report, HETA 95-0023-2531, American Azide Corporation, Cedar City, UtahGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    American Azide General Safety and Health Manual, AAC-SAF-006, October 1992Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Lamm SH, et al. (1992/1993) Short-term Exposures to Ethylene Glycol Dinitrate Concentrations Greater than 0.4 mg/m3 show no evidence of nitrate induced headaches. First Annual International Occupational Hygiene Association, Brussels, Belgium, 1992, and Am J Epidemiol 1993; 138(8):653 (Abstract)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Helga E. Rippen
    • 1
  • Steven H. Lamm
    • 2
  • Peter G. Nicoll
    • 3
  • Larry Cummings
    • 4
  • Gregory Howearth
    • 4
  • Dave Thayer
    • 4
  1. 1.Johns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Consultants in Epidemiology & Occupational Health, Inc.WashingtonUSA
  3. 3.Arthur D. Little of Canada Ltd.TorontoCanada
  4. 4.American Azide CorporationCedar CityUSA

Personalised recommendations