Occupational exposure to fluid commonly used in metal machining operations may be related to a rare, irreversible lung disease known as lymphocytic bronchiolitis, according to research presented at ERS 2015.

Although metalworking fluid is known to be associated with lung diseases involving the immune system, such as asthma and hypersensitivity pneumonitis, this appears to be the first time that exposure to metalworking fluid has been associated with lymphocytic bronchiolitis.

In this condition, an overgrowth of immune cells damages the smallest airways in the lung, suggesting an immune system reaction to something inhaled.

Dr Kristin Cummings, a respiratory health specialist from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Morgantown, WV, USA, will describe her team’s efforts to find the cause of this rare disorder after four cases were diagnosed at a manufacturing facility where metalworking fluid was employed in a number of processes. The researchers interviewed and measured the lung function of 388 workers who worked at the facility.

Several of the workers with lymphocytic bronchiolitis are now disabled and unable to work, and at least one has required supplemental oxygen. The disease appears to be irreversible, the researchers say.

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