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.
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.
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).
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.