Occupational exposure risk warning

August 17, 2015 - 07:00pm

The American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH), Lansing, Mich., issued a reminder to workers and industry of the potential for exposure to microbial pathogens in metalworking fluids following a story in the Belfast Telegraph about metalworkers at a local shipyard who were diagnosed with pneumococcal disease. The workers are believed to have been exposed to aerosols containing the bacteria.  

Pneumococcal disease is an infection caused by bacteria called pneumococcus, including Streptococcus pneumoniae. It can cause a variety of illnesses, ranging from ear and blood infections to pneumococcal pneumonia and meningitis.  

Metalworkers are at risk of exposure to a variety of infectious agents when working with contaminated metalworking fluids, as some types of fluids can support microbial growth. If these fluids are not properly maintained or changed frequently, contaminants may become established and grow exponentially. Workers may then be exposed to bacterial and fungal cells or cell components and biological byproducts, such as endotoxins, exotoxins and mycotoxins. 

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), "Occupational exposures to metalworking fluids may cause a variety of health effects. Respiratory conditions include hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP), chronic bronchitis, impaired lung function, and asthma. Work-related asthma (WRA) is one of today's most prevalent occupational disorders, imposing significant costs in healthcare and workers' compensation." 

One group of dedicated professionals who help to prevent exposure and other occupational hazards are Certified Industrial Hygienists (CIHs). "CIHs are trained to recognize and prevent exposure risks for workers, including those involved with metalworking fluids," said Nicole Greeson, CIH and chair of ABIH. "Core competencies of the CIH program include air sampling and instrumentational analysis; chemical and biohazards; engineering controls and ventilation; health risk analysis and hazard communication; and work environments and industrial processes." 

To learn more about the American Board of Industrial Hygiene, Certified Industrial Hygienist credentials or to locate a CIH to perform industrial hygiene services, please visit www.ABIH.org, email abih@ABIH.org or call (517) 321-2638. 

Related Glossary Terms

  • metalworking


    Any manufacturing process in which metal is processed or machined such that the workpiece is given a new shape. Broadly defined, the term includes processes such as design and layout, heat-treating, material handling and inspection.


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