This site will look much better in a browser that supports web standards, but it is accessible to any browser or Internet device.
|Principal Investigator:||Susan Kennedy (University of British Columbia)|
|Kay Teschke, Karen Bartlett, Paul Demers, Anne Marie Nicol, Mark Fitzgerald, Barbara Karlen, Christie Hurrell, Cheryl Peters, Cathy Jensen, Christian Turner, Reid Chambers, Randy Urbanowski, Cornel Lencar, Emily Carpenter, Kathleen McLean, Celine Horner|
For more information about this project, please contact Barbara Karlen.
In 1988, UBC researchers began a long term study of the development of asthma and other breathing problems in response to irritants and allergens in work environments. They tested four groups of apprentices (machinists, electricians, insulators and painters) at the beginning of the study and two years later to identify early changes in respiratory health. In the latest phase of the study, researchers followed up with over 200 of the original participants to determine whether the breathing problems identified earlier in some of the apprentices were associated with respiratory problems later on. For machinists, the research also examined whether breathing problems were associated with exposures to highly irritating metalworking fluids in the air.
In 1988, the researchers started a long‐term study of apprentices in four trades in BC: machinists, who are exposed to highly irritating metalworking fluids in the air, and three other construction trades which are at lower risk for lung disease from irritants at work (painters, insulators, and electricians). Researchers measured the function and responsiveness of their lungs three times: at the beginning of the study (1988-1990), two years later (1991‐1993), and 16 years later (2004-2006). There were 356 apprentices originally enrolled in the study, and over 200 of those participants were tested in this follow-up phase.
Breathing tests included spirometry, which assesses whether a person’s air passages have become chronically damaged from exposure to irritants, and an airway sensitivity test (methacholine challenge), which measures whether the lungs are overly responsive to short‐term inhalation of irritants or allergens.
Participants also completed questionnaires about their job tasks, work history and respiratory health. For current and former machinists, exposure to metalworking fluids was estimated based on detailed questions about the job and worksite characteristics, and a previously developed model for estimating metalworking fluid aerosol concentration. To update the model, researchers conducted new testing of metalworking fluid aerosols in many small machine shops in B.C.
Data from the respiratory health assessments were also linked with information about whether participants’ visited health providers to get help with asthma or other respiratory conditions. This data linkage was conducted without personally identifying information, to protect the privacy of participants.
First follow-up (two years after baseline testing)
Second follow-up (16 years after beginning employment)
Measurements of Metalworking Fluid Aerosols
The researchers conclude that workers with early breathing problems developed in response to workplace irritants and allergens are more likely to develop asthma and other chronic breathing problems later on.
Based on the dose-response relationship found between metalworking fluids in the air and the development of lung problems for machinists working in the trade long term, the researchers conclude that stronger regulations regarding exposure limits for metalworking fluid aerosols are needed.
The research findings will also be helpful for implementing screening programs in workplaces, and motivating workplaces to minimize exposures to metalworking fluid aerosols, especially those associated with grinding and CNC machining.
Areas identified for further research include:
Publications and presentations