Flock worker’s lung is a preventable lung disease. Dust removal systems eliminate occupational risk by providing clean indoor air quality for workers.
When you open a greeting card, reach into your car’s glove box or read your child her favorite “touch and feel” storybook, chances are, the word “flocking” is not on your mind. And yet, all of the aforementioned items have been flocked.
Flock is used to make a variety of objects, from carpets, clothing apparel, and jewel boxes to paper goods (such as picture books, posters and greeting cards) that have raised or rough threads. Flocking is a fiber coating process that can add dimension and texture to almost any article. (1) It can be decorative in nature, like on wallpaper or a holiday greeting card or functional, as with an automotive glove compartment, which prevents objects housed there from sliding around. Flocked products can also absorb noise and vibration.
Flock – usually created from synthetic materials such as nylon and polyester – consists of small fibers that are either milled or cut from long strands then glued to a backing material such as fabric to provide a fuzzy surface texture (2). Milled flock can is created from cotton or synthetic waste material. Cut flock, by contrast, is produced from filament synthetic materials, cut specifically for flocking.
The risk to workers does not come from fibers themselves but from the flock dust that is emitted into a worker’s breathing space. As a result, flock inhalation can cause flock worker’s lung.
Flock worker’s lung is an occupational lung disease resulting from chronic exposure to flock particulates. The disease was discovered in 1998 when a group of flocking plant workers developed interstitial lung disease. Initially, the workers were misdiagnosed with asthma or recurrent pneumonia. Later, they were found to have flock worker’s lung, a direct result of flock particulate inhalation.
Cutting and cleaning flock are the two tasks with the highest risk of exposure. The process of flock cutting results in the creation of airborne particles; cleaning flock particulate matter with compressed air blasts the dust back into a worker’s breathing space. In both instances, workers who inhale these small airborne fibers can develop inflammation and scarring in their lungs. (3)
The most common symptoms of flock inhalation are wheezing, chest pain, throat irritation and sinus congestion. Chronic cough, shortness of breath and chronic phlegm are also prevalent symptoms. Studies have also shown a tendency toward developing pneumonia among flock workers. (4)
It is for these reasons, that both the CDC and NIOSH recommend that flock manufacturing companies reduce worker occupational risk to flock inhalation and particulate dust by employing safe work practices and engineering controls in order to eliminate dust exposure. (2)
At Air Systems Inc, we serve our customers who wish to protect their flock workers by providing indoor air quality management solutions in addition to stellar indoor air quality products. Our dust collection systems provide employees with clean air and a safe place to work. Contact us today for a free air quality assessment with one of our skilled and experienced indoor environmental specialists.