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Flock worker's lung: a case study.

Tumpowsky-CM; Hicks-T
SENSOR Occup Lung Dis Bull 2000 Aug; :1-3
In this issue we present a case study involving a relatively new lung disease known as flock workers' lung. The flocking industry produces fleeced fabric for use in the manufacture of automobile and other upholstery, carpeting, and novelty items. There are at least 4 flock manufacturers in Massachusetts and 65 additional companies share the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code that includes flock manufacturing. Workers in this industry may be exposed to very short fibers cut from synthetic or natural materials and as a result of this exposure, may be at increased risk for developing chronic interstitial lung disease. Case history - The patient, a 41-year old non-smoking maintenance worker at a nylon flock manufacturer in Massachusetts, initially presented to his primary care physician approximately 6 years ago with a persistent cough. He was diagnosed with new onset of asthma and treated with a metered dose beta-agonist inhaler without significant improvement. The patient's physicians at the pulmonary clinic referred him to the occupational medicine clinic at UMass Medical Center. As part of his evaluation, a worksite evaluation was performed. This site visit occurred prior to publication of further data on flock industry workers and limited information on the association between flock and lung disease was available at the time. Given this, other substances were considered including welding and soldering fumes and titanium dioxide. While the medical literature noted possible associations with interstitial fibrosis, no association with these substances and the patient's pulmonary symptoms could be established. In November 1998, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health conducted health hazard evaluations of two New England flock manufacturing facilities These evaluations were requested by management because workers in another flock plant in Rhode Island had been diagnosed with flock workers' lung. The NIOSH investigations consisted of symptom and work history surveys and personal and area sampling for respirable dust and fiber counts. The NIOSH HHEs found that respirable particles and fibers were present in air samples. The process of cleaning with compressed air (blow-down cleaning) resulted in the highest dust concentrations measured in the worksites and was associated with an excess of fever/aches and cough/phlegm. As a result of their investigations, NIOSH recommended that dust exposures be reduced by eliminating the use of blowdowns as a means of cleaning and by changing the flockloading processes. Until engineering controls could be put in place, NIOSH recommended that workers use personal respiratory protection.
Occupational-diseases; Occupational-health; Lung-disease; Work-environment; Workers; Occupational-exposure; Respiratory-system-disorders; Pulmonary-system-disorders; Employee-exposure; Occupational-respiratory-disease; Health-care; Disease-prevention; Airway-resistance; Surveillance-programs; Medical-monitoring; Lung-irritants; Case-studies; Fabrics; Fibrous-bodies; Synthetic-fibers; Synthetic-fibers-industry; Lung-fibrosis; Bronchial-asthma
Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Occupational Health Surveillance Program, 250 Washington Street, 6th Floor, Boston, MA 02108
Publication Date
Document Type
Funding Type
Cooperative Agreement
Fiscal Year
Identifying No.
Source Name
SENSOR Occupational Lung Disease Bulletin
Performing Organization
Massachusetts State Department of Public Health
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division