Archive for the ‘Microbe Health Effects’ Category


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 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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