Update: BASF says contaminated foams pose no health risk

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Photo by BASF SE Steam Cracker II, the largest individual plant at BASF's Ludwigshafen site.

In its latest update about contaminated toluene diisocyanate (TDI) supplied to 50 customers in Europea, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), German chemicals manufacturer BASF said its preliminary investigations show low DBC (dichlorobenzene). 

Out of the 7,500 tonnes of TDI which have been affected, said BASF, about two-thirds have not yet been further processed and the company is currently working ‘intensively’ with customers, associations and consumers on the withdrawal of the materials.

BASF SE has stopped delivering the materials and announced on 11 Oct that it was withdrawing unprocessed TDI and unprocessed foam blocks from the market following the supply of materials contaminated in August and September.

The company has estimated the withdrawal process would be completed by the end of “next week”.

BASF says it will assist customers who have already processed the contaminated product with all necessary tests to ensure that the specific limits of the different industries are met.

The company confirmed the situation after Switzerland's Conzzetta AG, which owns customer FoamPartner, and Belgian foamer Recticel, issued statements yesterday night. Recticel said five of its plants had been supplied with contaminated Lupranate T80 A. FoamPartner said that three of its plants had been supplied.

In a statement, BASF said that TDI from Ludwigshafen, Germany, "produced between 25 Aug and 29 Sept, contained a significantly higher concentration of dichlorobenzene. Since then, the production process has been changed to prevent further fluctuations in quality."

It added that around 7,500 metric tons of TDI were affected.

For the product that has been processed further, BASF "recommends as a precautionary measure that its customers conduct tests to ensure that the relevant industry standards are adhered to."

The firm added that it is "working closely with customers and will offer support for testing and consultation as needed" and that a customer hotline is being established.

Dichlorobenzene was found in higher quantities than usual in the TDI because of what BASF described as "a change in process parameters."

"This," the firm added, "resulted in the failure to adequately remove dichlorobenzene in the distillation step of TDI production."

BASF said that the process has been modified to stop this happening again.

Dichlorobenzene is suspected of being carcinogenic. It can cause irritation of the skin, the eyes and the respiratory tract and sensitization of the skin.

Conzzetta, the Swiss holding company that owns FoamPartner, said: "Three factories in Wolfhausen, Switzerland; Duderstadt, Germany, and Leverkusen, Germany are affected. The contaminated batches were secured and isolated at the Leverkusen factory."

TDI delivered to FoamPartner's Duderstadt plant had been completely processed by the time BASF told the firm. Customers who have bought FoamPartner product from this plant have been informed, FoamPartner said.

FoamPartner's Wolfhausen factory was using the TDI in production when it discovered the problem. Production was suspended, deliveries stopped and customers were informed. Complete resumption of production is planned in the next days, the company said.

Recticel said that the material was delivered to five of its factories and it "has taken immediate precautionary measures in the affected sites, with a temporary stop in production and deliveries, to limit any potential adverse impact on quality and safety of employees, customers or consumers."

Recticel said that it will protect customers as far as possible from the problems they may face from the contaminated TDI. Production and deliveries are expected to restart in the coming days, the firm added.

Simon Robinson, editor Urethane Technologies International, has contributed to this report.

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