Recently described scientific literature has identified the airborne presence of 2,3-butanedione (diacetyl) and 2,3-pentanedione at concentrations approaching or potentially exceeding the current American Conference of Industrial Hygienists’ (ACGIH) Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) at commercial coffee roasting and production facilities. Newly established National Institutes of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Recommended Exposure Limits for diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione are even more conservative. Chronic exposure to these alpha-diketones at elevated airborne concentrations has been associated with lung damage, specifically bronchiolitis obliterans, most notably in industrial food processing facilities.
Workers at a large commercial coffee roaster were monitored for both eight-hour and task-based, short-term, 15-min sample durations for airborne concentrations of these alpha-diketones during specific work processes, including the coffee bean roasting, blending and grinding processes, during two separate 8-hour work periods. Additionally, the authors performed real-time Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) analysis of the workers’ breathing zone as well as the area workplace air for the presence of organic compounds to determine the sources, as well as quantitate and identify various organic compounds proximal to the roasting and grinding processes. Real-time FTIR measurements provided both the identification and quantitation of diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione, as well as other organic compounds generated during coffee bean roasting and grinding operations.