MWF Study Focuses on Kidney Risks


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention awarded George Washington University a $1.3 million grant to study whether exposure to metalworking fluids leads to serious kidney illnesses.

During the four-year epidemiological study, GWUs School of Public Health and Health Services will link collected data to medical registries to determine if approximately 46,000 autoworkers exposed to metalworking fluids in the workplace were more likely to develop end-stage renal disease and renal cell carcinoma.

Metalworking fluids are extremely complex mixtures, and the risks of contact and exposures to these chemicals may have changed over time, said Kate Applebaum, an occupational epidemiologist, assistant professor of environmental and occupational health at GWU and principal investigator of the study. Its important that we try to get a better understanding of the possible impacts that come from contact with these fluids.

The theory that exposures to metalworking fluids may have serious health risks has existed for some time, Applebaum told Lube Report, but the outcomes to the renal system from those exposures, and whether or not a causal relationship between contact and kidney disease exists, is vastly understudied.

Industrial jobs are extremely important and we want to make sure that the chemicals used in these operations arent adversely affecting the health of workers, Applebaum continued. Were not trying to do things that would prevent workers from getting their job done.

Findings of the study wont be released for at least a year, or possibly two, Applebaum said, noting that preliminary results may mark the beginning of a larger study. I dont think that any one epidemiological study provides a single answer to a causal relationship – well need to evaluate the findings in the context of medical literacy.

The Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association – which has spearheaded efforts to educate manufacturers on effectively managing the health, safety and environmental impacts of metalworking fluids – declined to comment on the GWU study.

The grant was awarded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the national public health institute of the United States.