Fog & Smoke Working Group - Reading List

Study of Scientific Literature on Glycol and Glycerin Inhalation

The Fog & Smoke Working Group, part of PLASA's Technical Standards Program, developes standards for theatrical fogs and recommended practices for using fog-making equipment safely and effectively. One of the first steps in the standards-drafting process is to identify existing exposure standards for the fog components. Well-recognized exposure standards exist for the materials used in oil-based fogs and hazes, dry ice fogs, and liquid nitrogen fogs, but fewer standards exist for the compounds used to make what are commonly called "glycol-based fogs," and the standards that do exist are not well known.

To find out more about what the scientific and industrial hygiene community knows about the chemicals used to make glycol fogs, PLASA issued a request for quotations for a survey of the relevant literature. The RFQ was sent to 51 companies that have a Certified Industrial Hygienist on staff, and a dozen bids were received. Two bids were accepted, and two companies conducted independent literature surveys: The Cohen Group of San Mateo, CA and HSE Consulting and Sampling of Omaha, NE. The studies were paid for by ESTA, the Professional Lighting And Sound Association (PLASA) of Britain, and the Professional Lighting and Sound Association of Germany (VPLT).

The Cohen Group report and the HSE Consulting report are not identical documents, but are substantially congruent in their findings. Both reports state that all of the chemicals they studied (glycerin and five dihydric alcohols) are of low toxicity. Some of the chemicals are of such low toxicity that no maximum allowable concentrations have ever been established, even though they are used in a wide variety of industrial applications. A few of the chemicals have permissible exposure limits defined by a variety of governmental bodies in the US, UK and Germany, but these exposure limits are believed to be higher than the levels needed to produce a heavily fogged theatrical environment. Neither report gives any indication that performance environments should be evaluated in a manner different than that used for other industrial work sites. The Cohen Group report, however, does note that the existing concentration data may not be valid for infants, the elderly, or those with impaired breathing.

The Fog & Smoke Working Group has used the data in the Cohen Group and HSE Consulting reports to help draft a standard for theatrical fog created with solutions of water and one or more di- or tri-hydric alcohols. That standard, ANSI E1.5, can be found on the TSP's Published Documents page.

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