Investigation of respiratory and dermal symptoms associated with metal working fluids at an aircraft engine manufacturing facility

Authors

  • Francisco Meza MD, MPH,

    1. Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations and Field Studies, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Cincinnati, Ohio
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  • Lilia Chen MS, CIH,

    Corresponding author
    1. Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations and Field Studies, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Cincinnati, Ohio
    • Correspondence to: Lilia Chen, MS, CIH, Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations and Field Studies, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 4676 Columbia Parkway, Mailstop R-10, Cincinnati, OH 45226.

      E-mail: fto3@cdc.gov

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  • Naomi Hudson DrPH, MPH

    1. Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations and Field Studies, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Cincinnati, Ohio
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  • Disclosure Statement: The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Abstract

Background

Each year, 1.2 million metalworkers are exposed to metalworking fluids (MWFs), which can cause dermal and respiratory disease. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducted a health hazard evaluation of MWF exposures at an aircraft engine manufacturing facility. The objectives were to determine employee exposures to endotoxin and MWFs in the air, characterize symptoms experienced by employees working with MWFs, compare them to symptoms of employees unexposed to MWFs, and make recommendations for reducing exposures based on results.

Methods

Four hundred seven workers were categorized as MWF exposed or MWF unexposed and completed questionnaires. Estimated prevalence ratios (PR) of dermatitis, asthma, and work-related asthma (WRA) symptoms were calculated. Airborne concentrations of MWF and endotoxin were measured, and work practices observed.

Results

MWF exposed workers had a significantly higher prevalence of dermatitis on wrists/forearms (PR 2.59; 95% CI 1.22, 5.46), asthma symptoms (PR 1.49; 95% CI 1.05, 2.13), and WRA symptoms (PR 2.10; 95% CI 1.22, 3.30) than unexposed workers. Airborne concentrations of MWF were below the NIOSH recommended exposure limit (REL) for MWF aerosols (thoracic particulate mass).

Conclusions

Despite MWF exposures below the NIOSH REL, exposed workers had a higher prevalence of asthma, WRA, and dermatitis symptoms than unexposed workers. Recommendations to reduce exposure included configuring mist collectors to automatically turn on when the machine is in use, and enforcing enclosure use. Am. J. Ind. Med. 56:1394–1401, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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