Respiratory health of automobile workers exposed to metal-working fluid aerosols: respiratory symptoms

Am J Ind Med. 1997 Nov;32(5):450-9. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1097-0274(199711)32:5<450::aid-ajim4>;2-w.


A total of 1,811 automobile workers at three General Motors facilities were evaluated by questionnaire for possible respiratory effects resulting from airborne exposures to metal-working fluids (MWF): 1,042 currently worked as machinists and were exposed to one of three types of MWF aerosols (straight mineral oils, soluble oil emulsions, or water-based synthetic fluids that contained no oils); 769 assembly workers, without direct exposure, served as an internal reference group (of these, 239 had never worked as machinists). Symptoms of usual cough, usual phlegm, wheezing, chest tightness, and breathlessness, as well as physician-diagnosed asthma, and chronic bronchitis were the primary outcomes examined. Machinists as a whole had higher prevalence of cough, phlegm, wheezing, and breathlessness than that of assembly workers. Adjusting for confounding, phlegm and wheeze were associated with increasing levels of current exposure to straight oils; cough, phlegm, wheeze, chest tightness, and chronic bronchitis were associated with increasing levels of current exposure to synthetics. In models that included both past and current exposure, only current exposures to straight and synthetic fluids were associated with current symptoms.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / adverse effects*
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Automobiles
  • Bronchitis / epidemiology*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Metallurgy*
  • Michigan / epidemiology
  • Occupational Exposure / analysis
  • Odds Ratio
  • Oils / adverse effects
  • Prevalence
  • Respiration Disorders / epidemiology*


  • Aerosols
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Oils