Metal workers may be exposed to a number of toxins due to their use of and proximity to metalworking fluids (MWFs). This may lead to a broad range of significant adverse health reactions, including respiratory and skin conditions. If you work, or worked, in a machine or metal shop and are suffering from adverse symptoms, your condition may have been caused by the negligent or inappropriate use or storage of MWFs in your workplace.
MWFs Associated with Many Significant Injuries, Including Nasal-Related Cancers
When the MWF triazene combines with fluids, it becomes similar to formaldehyde leading to certain types of nasal-related cancers. Triazene persists in the soil, injures plants, and creates damage in ground water. In humans, there is evidence that triazines may be estrogenic.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has expressed concern about human exposure to MWFs that may lead to significant dermatological and respiratory systems. Also, prior to 1985, the use of poorly refined mineral oils had been associated with increased risks of larynx, rectum, pancreas, skin, scrotum, and bladder cancers.
One of the key concerns, explains OSHA, is that contaminants may be present that encourage bacterial and fungal growth. Also, oils may heat to temperatures under which the MWFs may enable the cutting tool and metal to form polynuclear hydrocarbons (PAHs). The likelihood of issues occurs when good hygiene practices are not followed and fluids are not appropriately managed or maintained. When these issues occur, health reactions that include the following, may occur:
- Skin irritation
- Allergic contact dermatitis
- Eye irritation
- Nose irritation
- Throat irritation
- Breathing difficulties
- Hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP),
Who is at Risk for MWF Injury
Industrial workers who use machines to mill, turn, thread, cut, grind, or manipulate metals are exposed to MWFs. These workers often work with drill presses; lathes; and screw, spindle, and turning machines. Workers in metal industries are in ongoing and close contact with these chemicals, which may lead to serious adverse reactions. Some workers, in particular, experience more intense exposure to these chemicals because of the industries in which they work, including assembly, machine operator and mechanic, machinist, machine setter, and metal workers.
The CDC indicates that about 1.2 million American workers are in ongoing contact with MWFs and, in 1998, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) released a manual for the metalworking industries that discussed the necessity for stringent safety measures and to teach workers and their employers about the potential dangers associated with MWFs.
The Ubiquity of Metalworking Fluids
MWFs include a variety of oils and liquids that cool and lubricate metalwork when that metalwork is being machined. All MWF classes may contain stabilizers, biocides, dispersants, dyes, and odorants and MWFs are classified as either:
- Straight Oil
- Neat Oil: not meant to be diluted with water; may contain highly refined petroleum, animal, marine, vegetable or synthetic oils
- Soluble Oil: highly refined petroleum oils, emulsifiers; diluted before use
- Semi-synthetic fluids: diluted before use
- Synthetic fluids: may include detergent-like components; diluted before use
Some of the most common fluids include, alkanolamines, anti-misting and –weld agents, biocides, buffers, chlorinated or sulphurized compounds, colorants and dyes, anti-corrosives, defoamers, dispersants, emulsifiers, extreme pressure additives, fragrances and odorants, and stabilizers. These fluids may contain any number of compounds, fatty materials, and sulfonates.
Compounds that are water-based and not composed of oils, may enable the proliferation of nitrosamines, which are chemical compounds that may be carcinogenic. These compounds are formed when metal cutting fluids come in contact with storage container liners, or airborne nitrogen oxides.
According to OSHA, Millions of Workers Exposed to Metalworking Fluids
MWFs may lead to adverse health effects through either skin contact with contaminated materials or inhalation of MWFs in mist or aerosol form, according to an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA has indicated that millions of workers who are involved in the manufacture of aircraft, automobiles, farm equipment, heavy machinery, and other hardware are exposed to machining fluids or MWFs.
Other industries that utilize these manmade metal cutting oils also include aerospace, coin minting, machine finishing and tooling, metal working or forming, petrochemical, wire making, and medical device industries. In fact, any intense metal cutting may involve metal cooling and lubricating by use of MWFs.
No Standards in Place for MWFs
Although The United Auto Workers (UAW) and United Steelworkers of America requested creation of standards for industrial lubricants and other fluids, oils, and coolants, there is just a maximum NIOSH-recommended exposure level in place of 0.4 milligrams over cubic meter of air. There is no enforcement of this recommendation.
Legal Help for Victims of Metalwork Fluids
If you work, or worked, closely with metalworking or machine fluids used in machine automation, and you suffered a related injury, you may have valuable rights and you may be eligible for compensation. We urge you to contact our metalworking fluid lawyers today by filling out our online form, or calling 1-800-968-7529 (1-800-YOURLAWYER).