Potential exposures to propylene may occur around facilities that process or make the chemical. It is less likely that the general public would have direct contact with propylene.
Occupational Propylene Exposure and Safety Precautions
While exposure to moderate amounts of propylene in the air may cause dizziness, drowsiness, and unconsciousness,3 toxic effects in people from brief, high exposures to propylene have not been reported.4
To further protect workers in manufacturing facilities where they may be exposed to chemicals such as propylene, the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists5 (ACGIH) set a “threshold limit value.”
A threshold limit value refers to the airborne concentrations of chemical substances and represents conditions under which it is believed that nearly all workers may be repeatedly exposed, day after day, over a working lifetime, without adverse health effects. The threshold limit value of propylene set by ACGIH is 500 parts per million over an 8-hour work shift.
Large amounts of propylene will decrease the available oxygen and can cause asphyxiation. Therefore, oxygen content in facilities where propylene is present should be routinely tested to ensure the oxygen level is above 19.5 percent by volume.6
Propylene Skin Exposure
Skin contact with liquified propylene can cause burns, severe injury or frostbite.3 In occupational settings where propylene is present, workers should have access to, and instructional use of, personal protective equipment to help minimize exposure. 6
Propylene is extremely flammable and easily ignited by heat, sparks or flames. Containers of propylene can rupture if exposed to fire or intense heat for prolonged periods. Fire from propylene may produce irritating and toxic gases.7 If a tank, rail car or tank truck carrying propylene is involved in a fire, the area should be isolated for one mile in all directions.6
Leaks and Spills
Areas that have had a propylene leak or spill should be isolated for at least 330 feet in all directions. Large spills may require downwind evacuation for at least half a mile.8