Are you Experiencing Symptoms of Metal Removal Fluid Exposure?
Metal Removal Fluids (MRF) are defined as a broad category of fluids used in machining operations that are comprised of a mixture of petroleum oils, a mixture of oil and water, or water and various non-petroleum-based chemicals that cool the tool-workpiece interface, reduce friction and flush away metal chips and fines. In most of our machining processes, a continuous stream of MRF is supplied to the cutting edge of the machine tool where heat and motion at the tool-workpiece interface generates mist, vapour and splashing. Maintenance of MRF and Oil Mist Collection (OMC) systems are critically important as we are exposed to these chemicals through skin contact and inhalation of the air we breathe while we work.
The definition of Occupational Exposure Limit is the level below which it has been determined nearly all workers may be repeatedly exposed to day after day without adverse health effects. Unifor and GM have agreed to exposure limits, and our plant is well within and below these limits, however as Ontario Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) suggests, these are not to be considered health-based limits, meaning people may still experience symptoms at the exposure levels we work in.
According to OHCOW, MRFs are a health concern when inhaled or when skin contact occurs. OHCOW describes the health effects associated with exposures to MRFs affecting primarily:
- the skin, causing irritant contact dermatitis and / or allergic contact dermatitis, with the possibly of infection of damaged or diseased skin; some workers may develop an allergic response;
- the upper respiratory tract, eyes, nose, and throat causing irritation and inflammation of the mucus membranes, occasionally aggravating pre-existing conditions. Symptoms may include sore or red eyes; sore throat; hoarse throat; runny, stuffed up nose and/or sinuses, and coughing up phlegm;
- the lower respiratory tract, causing asthma, bronchitis, coughing up phlegm, dry cough, wheezing, chest tightness, a decrease of lung function, and unusual shortness of breath.
OHCOW Occupational Hygienist John Oudyk writes, “The nature of these exposures is that most of the ill health effects are acute and will resolve once exposure to MRF has stopped.” Some of our members recently became aware of this fact, when they noticed symptoms as described above had cleared up while on layoff from the UAW strike, then reappeared within a few days after returning to work. As some of us go to Christmas holidays, you may notice this too. Our problem is these symptoms so closely resemble cold and flu, when we complain to plant medical with our belief they are work related, our symptoms are immediately considered non-occupational because we are within and below the Occupational Exposure Limits. Therefore, they believe there is no correlation between our symptoms and conditions on the shop floor. We are referred to see our family doctors with no knowledge of the nature of our exposure or related symptoms. We may be misdiagnosed and are often prescribed medication unrelated to our exposures, exacerbating the condition.
Next September 2020, as we go to bargaining we intend to fix this problem and we have a plan. In order to execute this plan, we need to know which of our members are experiencing any symptoms as described above. This information we will be kept confidential by us, and will be vital to our success resolving this issue. Please print and complete our questionnaire and return to us, our office in the west clock house, call us, or your Committeeperson to pick up.
Ed and Mike would like to wish you and your family a Safe and Merry Christmas!