Health Hazard Evaluation Report HETA 96-0093-2685, Microfibres, Inc. Pawtucket, RI.
On February 28, 1996, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) received a request from the management of Microfibres, Inc. to investigate the occurrence of two cases of what was initially thought to be hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP)-a type of interstitial lung disease (ILD)-among employees as its plant in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. This request was made at the urging of a local occupational medicine physician, who had clinically evaluated the patients and suggested a connection between this lung disease and exposure to air contaminants at the plant. This plant dyes, finishes, and cuts nylon (and some polyester) continuous fiber to produce flock and also applies the nylon flock to a backing fabric to produce flock-coating upholstery fabric, some of which is screen printed, embossed, or otherwise finished. The plant employs approximately 170 individuals, many of whom work substantial overtime. Following a walk-through inspection, NIOSH industrial hygienists conducted initial qualitative air sampling in the plant, followed by more comprehensive work area air sampling throughout the plant to characterize potential exposures to dust, bioaerosols, and gases. Bulk samples were also collected for microbial analysis.