Archive for the ‘Microbe Health Effects’ Category


Minimizing Covid-19 Infection Risk In The Industrial Workplace


Electron microscopy image of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

 

COVID-19 Infection Statistics

Although anti-COVD vaccines are rolling out and people are being immunized, as of early late December 2020, the rate at which daily, newly reported COVID-19 cases has continued to rise (Figure 1). In my 29 June 2020 What’s New article I discuss some of the limitations of such global statistics. In that post, I argued that the statistics would be more meaningful if the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC’s) morbidity and mortality reporting standards were used. Apropos of COVID-19, morbidity refers to patients’ cases reported and having the disease and mortality refers to COVID-19 patients who die from their COVID-19 infection. Both morbidity and mortality are reported as ratios of incidence per 100,000 potentially exposed individuals. I illustrated this in my portion of an STLE webinar presented in July 2020.


Fig 1. Global incidence of new COVID-19 cases – daily statistics as of 23 December 2020 (source: coronavirusstatistics.org).

 

What Do the Infection Statistics Mean?

Social scientists, epidemiologists, and public health specialists continue to debate the details, but the general consensus is that the disease spreads most widely and rapidly when individuals ignore the fundamental risk-reduction guidelines. It appears that COVID 19 communicability is proportional to the number of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles to with individuals are exposed. Figure 2 illustrates the relative number of virus particles shed during the course of the disease.


Fig 2. Relationship between number of SARS-2CoV viruses shed and COVID-19 disease progression.

 

Notice that the number of viruses shed (or dispersed by sneezing, coughing, talking, and breathing) is quite large early on – before symptoms develop fully. It’s a bit more complicated than that, however. Not all infected individuals are equally likely to shed and spread the virus. All things being apparently equal, some – referred to as super-spreaders – are substantially more likely than others to infect others. Although people with or without symptoms can be super-spreaders, those who are infected but asymptomatic are particularly dangerous. These folks do not realize that they should be self-quarantining. A study published in the 06 November 2020 issue of Science (https://science.sciencemag.org/content/370/6517/691) reported that epidemiological examination of millions of COVID-19 cases in India revealed that 5 % of infected people were responsible for 80 % of the reported cases.

What Shall We Do While Waiting for Herd Immunity to Kick-In?

The best strategy for avoiding the disease is to keep yourself physically distanced form others. Unfortunately, this advise is all but worthless for most people. We use public transportation to commute to work. We teach in classrooms, work in offices, restaurants, medical facilities, and industrial facilities in which ventilation systems are unable to exchange air frequently enough to minimize virus exposure risk. The April 2020 ASHRE Position Document on Infectious Aerosols recommends the use of 100 % outdoor air instead of indoor air recirculation. The same document recommends the used of high-MERV (MERV – minimum efficiency removal value – 10-point scale indicating the percentage of 0.3 µm to 10 µm particles removed) or HEPA (HEPA – high efficiency particulate absorbing – able to remove >99.9% of 0.3µm particles from the air) filters on building HVAC systems. Again, as individuals who must go to work, shop for groceries, etc., outside our own homes, we have little control over building ventilation systems.

Repeatedly, CDC (Centers for Disease Control), HSE (UK’s Health and Safety Executive), and other similar agencies have offered basic guidance:

1. Wear face masks – the primary reasons for doing this is to keep you from transmitting aerosols and to remind you to keep your hands away from your face. Recent evidence suggests that that although masks (except for ones that meet N-95 criteria) are not very efficient at filtering viruses out of the air inhaled through them, they do provide some protection.

2. Practice social distancing to the extent possible. The generally accepted rule of thumb is maintaining at least 6 ft (1.8 m) distance between people. This is useful if you are in a well-ventilated space for relatively short periods of time but might be insufficient if you are spending hours in inadequately ventilated public, industrial, or institutional spaces.

3. Wash hands thoroughly (at least 30 sec in warm, soapy water) and frequently. The objective here is to reduce the chances of first touching a virus laden surface and then transferring viruses into your eyes, nose, or mouth.

Here are links to the most current guidance documents:

CDC – How to Protect Yourself and Othershttps://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html

CDC – Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers Responding to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), May 2020https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html

HSE – Making your workplace COVID-secure during the coronavirus pandemichttps://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/working-safely/index.htm

UKLA- HSE Good Practice Guide – http://www.ukla.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/HSE-Good-Practice-Guide-Sept20-Web-LowresC.pdf – discusses health & safety in the metalworking environment.

WHO – Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the publichttps://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public

Remember: Prevention really Means Risk Reduction

It is impossible to reduce the risk of contracting COVD-19 to zero. However, timely and prudent preventative measures can reduce the risk substantially so that people can work, shop, and interact with one another safely. Guidance details continue to evolve as researchers learn more about SAR-CoV-2 and its spread. However, the personal hygiene basics have not changed since the pandemic started a year ago. If each of us does our part, we will be able to reduce the daily rate of new cases dramatically, long before the majority of folks have been immunized.

For more information, contact me at fredp@biodeterioration-control.com

REMEMBERING A MENTOR AND A MENSCH – PROFESSOR EUGENE D. WEINBERG 1922 TO 2019

This morning, while reading the Fall 2019 issue of Indiana University Alumni Magazine, I was saddened to read Gene Weinberg’s name in the list of recently deceased IU faculty and staff.
Professor Emeritus Eugene D. Weinberg died on 08 March – less than a week after having celebrated his 97th birthday. Gene was the first academician to have had a profound effect on my life’s path. I know that his memory will be a blessing to all of us who had the privileged and pleasure of knowing him.

I first met Professor Weinberg in 1966 – a few weeks into my first semester at IU. My initial plan was to have been a math major, but within a month, I began to rethink that plan. Having been tinkering with microbiology since my parents made the mistake of presenting me with a microscope for my eighth birthday, I decided to explore the possibility of changing majors to microbiology. In late October 1966, I visited with Professor Weinberg in his Jordan Hall office to explore my options. He advised me that the courses that I was taking were perfectly aligned with those that would be part of a microbiology major. He contacted my original, math department advisor and agreed to become my faculty advisor. From that date through my graduation in June 1970, Gene was always available to offer guidance and to facilitate my efforts to perform extracurricular studies under various Microbiology Department professors. Although I never saw it, I have no doubt that Gene’s letter of recommendation helped me to get accepted into graduate school and receive a full fellowship for my studies at University of New Hampshire.

Gene’s research interest was in medical microbiology. Knowing that my passion was microbial ecology, while I was taking his course in Medial Microbiology, he encouraged me to make my class project ecologically focused. When I went home for Thanksgiving, 1968, I took a suitcase full of sterile, 100 mL glass bottles with me. One the Friday after Thanksgiving, I drove to the Delaware River’s source. From there, and at various bridges located at 50 mi intervals – ending at the Delaware Memorial Bridge, I used a fishing pool, jury-rigged sampling setup to collect samples from each bank and the middle of the river. I then carried the full bottles back to Bloomington (good thing this was before there were suitcase weight limitations or TSA) where I proceed to run culture tests and biochemical taxonomic profiles on each type of microbe that I had detected. I rationalized this survey effort by noting that there was a possibility that the taxonomic profiles along the river’s length might have been indicative of public health risks.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but that project marked the start of my career as a microbial ecologist. I did realize from the outset that Gene was a supportive, encouraging mentor. When others might have said: “you can’t do that!” Gene would always tell me that I had a great idea, asked me if I had thought about various details – which of course I hadn’t, and suggest research papers that might help me to refine my thoughts. Gene was one of perhaps four mentors whose influence shaped my career as a microbiologist. I feel most fortunate for having known him and have benefited from his wisdom, his kindness, and his mentorship.

You can find Gene’s full obituary article at https://www.hoosiertimes.com/herald_times_online/obituaries/eugene-weinberg-phd/article_f86ed715-7dde-5789-9916-40d1e0fb0bfe.html.

METAWORKING FLUIDS, 3RD EDITION NOW AVIALABLE!

Thirteen years after Metalworking Fluids, 2nd Ed. was published, the third edition is now available. Metalworking Fluids, 3rd Ed. Jerry Byers, Ed. has just been published (ISBN, Hardbound: 978-1-4987-2222-3; E-book: 978-1-14987-2223-0) and is available from STLE, CRC Press, or Taylor & Francis.

MWF 3rd. Ed. promises to become the new MWF bible. All of its chapters reflect either substantial updates or all new material. I recommend this new volume most strongly to all metalworking industry stakeholders.

Full disclosure, I wrote Chapter 11 – Microbiology of Metalworking Fluids. Many of the other chapters were written by colleagues on STLE’s Metalworking Fluid Education and Training Subcommittee.

The Truth is Out There…

For those of you who are interested in metalworking fluid microbiology and microbial contamination control, I invite you to read my March 2016 Tribology and Lubrication Transactions TLT) article: MWF Biocides Part II – Science vs. Fiction.
This was an accidental article that I was asked to write in response to an error-laden article that had appeared in TLT’s November issue. The earlier piece had been written by an individual whose familiarity with the topic was limited to the research performed in the process of drafting the TLT submission. I had not yet read the article when I started receiving flaming emails from industry colleagues who mistakenly believed that I had an editorial role and had somehow approved the article for publication. Initially, my plan was to write a letter to the editor. Indeed, I wrote a draft letter listing each error and the correct information (with relevant references cited as appropriate). The letter morphed into the March article. To be sure that I wasn’t just offering my personal opinions, I recruited log time colleagues Drs. Neil Canter and Alan Eachus and Mssrs. Jerry Byers and Richard Rotherham to co-author the article. I am much indebted to each of them for their contributions to the effort.
MWF Biocides Part II focuses primarily on the scientifically unsupportable conflation of formaldehyde (HCHO) and formaldehyde-condensate microbicides (FCM). The toxicological profiles of FCM differ among specific chemistries, but as a group are substantially different from HCHO. Moreover, although regulators assume that 100% of the HCHO in FCM will end up in the air above metalworking fluids (MWF) threated with FCM, data prove otherwise. Over the past couple of years, the number of microbicides approved for use in MWF has plummeted. In Europe there are only 27 listed biocidal substances (most are still going through regulatory review) that can be used in MWF. In the U.S., by last summer, the US EPA’s Office of Pesticides Programs will most likely issue guidance that will determine the future availability of FCM. In addition to clarifying the FCM issues that had been misreported in the November article, the March article sets the record straight on nearly 30 other misstatements made in the earlier publication.
Please contact me at fredp@biodeterioraiton-control.com for a copy of the MWF Biocides Part II.

Legionella pneumophila in Metalworking Fluids

I’m sharing an email exchange that I had with a colleague who had asked about the risk of L. pneumophila (the microbe that causes Legionnaire’s disease) in MWF.
Thank you for posting your query to BCA’s website.

You wrote:
“I wondered if you could help me answer a customer’s question. One of my customer’s machine tool operators is in the hospital being treated for Legionnaires’ disease. My customer asked me if the Kathon 886 MW or Kathon CC kills this strain of bacteria. I really appreciate your help and advice. I attend the annual STLE meeting every year and hear you speak on maintaining and monitoring metal working fluids, so I thought you would be the best source to ask. The Legionnaires’ disease was most likely contracted in Tennessee while this gentleman was on vacation. Other machine operators are now afraid they might contract the disease through the metal working fluids in the plant.
Thank you for your time and thoughts.”

The short answer is yes.

Not long after Legionella pneumophila was identified as the disease agent that caused Legionnaire’s disease, Rohm & Haas tested Kathon WT1.5 efficacy against the bacterium. WT1.5 is just Dow’s (formerly R & H) water treatment market label for the 1.5% active product we use as Kathon 886MW and 886MW 1.5 in the MW industry.

Keep in mind that L. pneumophila is ubiquitous. If you recall the incident at Ford’s Le Brea, OH plant some years ago, four machinists came down with Legionnaire’s disease. Attempts to detect L. pneumophila from MWF systems all failed. An immunological survey of all of the plant’s employees revealed that the majority has antibodies to L. pneumophila. Other immunological surveys (populations outside our industry) have demonstrated that the majority of the population has been exposed to the microbe (i.e.: has the antibodies). Most of the time, folks who contract the disease have other health problems that render them more susceptible than the general population. Back to Le Brea. That incident and a cluster of Pontiac Fever cases at a Pontiac Plant in Windsor Ontario in 1981 are the only two clusters of Legionnaire’s disease that have been reported in the MW industry. The 1981 outbreak was caused by L. feeleii growing in the facility’s cooling towers. The source of L. pneumophila at Le Brea was never confirmed.

From what we know, workers are much more likely to be at risk from improperly controlled heat exchange systems/cooling towers than from MWF.

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