Foundry Long Latency Health Risk Project

Project background

Foundry workers have been identified as an HSE priority area because:

  1. large numbers of workers are exposed to chemicals or substances we know can cause long latency disease; and,
  2. there is a very high incidence of long latency disease

This project attempts to address the question 'what improvements can be practicably aimed for within the Foundry industry to bring about a reduction in the number of cases of work-related ill health'. In essence - what constitutes a "model" foundry?

This is a joint HSE-industry project which has been welcomed by industry.  Industry partners are providing access to a range of foundries identified as demonstrating good working practice and are making available information and data so as to reduce overall costs to HSE in establishing industry-specific benchmark criteria for good substance control.

The project has targeted 15 of approximately 150 different exposure risk scenarios within the industry for investigation.  It is estimated that approximately 15,000 workers (75% of the total workforce) will potentially be exposed within these scenarios.


Phase one comprised investigation of the first seven risk scenarios.

The preliminary findings from the first phase were presented to the WATCH Committee * for peer review.

WATCH was supportive of the project. Phase two comprises investigation of the eight remaining risk scenarios.

The recruitment of volunteer Foundries for Phase two has started and it is anticipated that the site visits will be completed by the summer of 2013.

What have we found so far?

Control of exposure can be achieved through the use of Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) and Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE), but this has limited application, given the nature of many of the tasks of concern - undertaken in large, open environments. This means that substitution of harmful substances by less harmful substances is seen by HSE as the likely main solution to achieving reductions to the exposures of concern.

Opportunities for improvement in LEV systems and RPE programmes have been identified. HSE has facilitated the formation of a new partnership between the recently formed Institution of Local Exhaust Ventilation Engineers (ILEVE) and the Cast Metals Federation (CMF) to improve LEV in the industry. 

Specific findings to date include that use of furan chemical binders reduces benzene exposures and the use of clean recycled steel eliminates lead exposures (which have been discovered by the project) amongst ferrous foundry workers.

There is also a potential to use Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS) as a lead indicator of exposure to all hazardous substances in the industry.

*WATCH is the Working Group on Action to Control Chemicals.  WATCH is a Government Scientific Advisory Committee and is the scientific and technical subcommittee of HSE's Advisory Committee on Toxic Substances (ACTS)*

Health Surveillance Project

This study is linked to the Long latency health risk project (above). It is looking at the health of foundry workers exposed to fumes, dusts and gases. This is because exposures in foundries can cause breathing problems.  The study will record symptoms, lung function, exhaled nitric oxide and biomarkers in urine, which will be linked to the exposure data gathered during the Long Latency Health Risks project.

The data collected from this study (which also includes historical health records) will be used to develop models of health surveillance aimed at reducing future health risks in foundry workers.

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Updated 2023-11-21