Aluminum Dust and Lung Overload: What You Should Know

There has been some research on the effects of breathing in aluminum dust on a consistent basis. Studies have been conducted with animals and humans to try to pinpoint the risks of inhaling aluminum dust. One of the major concerns with regularly breathing in metal dust is lung overload. Lung overload occurs when the lungs cannot clear out the particles fast enough and become over-burdened. One study says that, “The hallmark of the particle-overloaded lung is an impairment of alveolar macrophage (AM)-mediated lung clearance which has been demonstrated in all species tested so far and which eventually leads to accumulation of excessive lung burdens.” Lung overload depends on particle size and the amount of exposure.

Lung overload has been shown to cause “chronic pulmonary inflammation, pulmonary fibrosis, and even lung tumors” in rats. In humans, it has been demonstrated that “particle-overloaded lungs, e.g., in coal workers, respond with fibrosis.”

To reduce the risk of lung overload, wear a respirator that is fitted to you and is appropriate for your work environment. Austal offers respirators upon request, and workers need to seriously consider wearing them at all times, even when it is uncomfortable or inconvenient.

To reduce exposure to high amounts of aluminum dust, workers and management need to sit down and think through ways to reduce the amount of dust in the air and in ship holes. Better housekeeping, more space in between workers, and better ways of removing dust are all ways Austal could reduce this risk in its workers. But Austal won’t act unless workers push the issue!

It’s your health and career on the line, so protect yourself! Aluminum shipbuilding can be done safely, but it takes communication and risk reduction – and it’s up to workers to hold Austal accountable.

For more information, please contact us! We are invested in protecting worker health through safety training, workplace monitoring, and worker-to-worker action!  

Metal Trades Department
210 S. Washington Ave. Mobile, AL
Mobile, AL 36660 Phone: 251-434-8254
Email: MobileMTC@MetalTrades.org

To view the studies from this article, please see:

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