How Oil Mist Impacts The Environment

How Oil Mist Impacts the Environment

Manufacturing industries, such as metalworking and machining, use heavy machinery that would require maintenance to perform properly without any difficulties. The process makes use of metalworking fluids, which help to cool machines down and protect them from damage. At the same time, these fluids improve the quality of the product by removing the chips, shavings, and other debris from its surface. Metalworking fluids allow industrial facilities to prolong the useful life of the equipment and maintain the quality of the products.

However, these fluids are often sprayed in incredibly narrow spaces using high amounts of pressure. As they come in contact with the rapidly moving parts of the machinery, this results in the creation of oil mist — airborne oil droplets. While oil mist exists because of metalworking fluids cooling and protecting machinery, its constant production and its effects are far from beneficial when it comes to the environment.

Types of Metalworking Fluids

Machining fluids can negatively affect facilities and the environment

Applying high-pressure metalworking fluids to the moving parts of heavy machinery creates oil mist. While there are various additives and components in them, there are 4 basic types of metalworking fluids:

  • Straight Oils – Straight oils are also known as neat or cutting oils. This type does not use water to dilute it, but there might be other additives mixed in. This is made up of marine, animal, vegetable, mineral, or synthetic oils. Mineral oils are now severely solvent refined or severely hydrotreated, which reduces the amount of polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
  • Soluble Oils – Soluble oils are also known as emulsifiable oils. This has 30% to 85% severely refined petroleum oils. It also has emulsifiers which help to distribute the oil in the water.
  • Semi-synthetic Fluids – Semi-synthetic fluid comprises 5% to 30% severely refined petroleum oils, 30% to 50% water, and additives.
  • Synthetic Fluids – Synthetic fluids do not have any petroleum oils. Instead, they use other additives including detergent-like components to help “wet” the created products.

Impact on the Environment

Photosynthesis becomes more difficult when oil mist clings onto plants

  • Plants

When oil mist disperses into the natural environment, the droplets cling onto the plants and begin to accumulate. As the accumulation of these droplets continues, it becomes more difficult for photosynthesis to occur. With the droplets blocking the plants’ stomata (tiny pores or openings), it will be harder for plants to absorb the needed sunlight and nutrients to grow.

  • Soil

When it accumulates, oil mist can change the physical properties of soil. Soil becomes less healthy and porous. This can hinder both oxygen and water from entering. The quality of soil also impacts the survival of plants and crops. To ensure their survival, it is vital for soil to maintain a certain level of porosity for optimal water infiltration and aeration. However, the presence of oil mist reduces porosity, keeping much-needed nutrients from reaching the plant roots.

Soil also serves as the habitat of living organisms, such as insects and rodents. When the soil is not well-aerated, it becomes uninhabitable for them.

  • Water

All it takes is 1 ppm of oil to contaminate water

Oil mist also affects water. It does not have to take a large amount of oil to contaminate water. Contaminated water contains 1 parts per million (ppm) of oil. Similar to how it affects soil, oil mist can interfere with the exchange of oxygen and gas between the atmosphere and the water.

It also impacts how light penetrates water; its presence reduces the ability of light to reach beneath the water surface. This can affect the health of aquatic animals, plants, and beneficial microorganisms living in it.

Impact on Animals

Aerosolized machining fluids can cause respiratory issues in mice

The impact of oil mist is not only evident in the environment; it also extends to animals. A study conducted by Schaper and Detwiler observed the harmful effects oil mist can have on mice. Frequent exposure to oil mist results in physiological changes, altering how they breathe.

Additionally, animals of varying species find it difficult to protect themselves from various environmental factors when oil mist accumulates on their bodies. Prolonged exposure to this can internally and externally affect exposed animals.

  • Internal
    • Animals experience lung congestion and sustain damage to their airways due to inhaling oil mist.
    • Marine mammals, in particular, can develop emphysema and pneumonia.
    • Frequent ingestion of oil mist can damage an animal’s gastrointestinal tract, preventing their digestive system from processing water and food.
    • They might also develop anemia since it damages red blood cells.
  • External
    • Oil mist clinging to their bodies will make it harder for their fur or feathers to retain heat, which can lead to hypothermia.
    • Animals are also more likely to drown as accumulated oil mist can weigh more.
    • Frequent exposure to oil mist also irritates their eyes.
    • Animals experience more difficulty in foraging for food and eating.

Impact on Humans

Exposure to oil mist can cause respiratory issues

People are not immune to the effects of the oil mist. Workers who are frequently exposed to oil mist can ingest, inhale, or absorb it through their skin. This can result in symptoms, such as fever and vomiting. Oil mist exposure can also severely impact their skin and respiratory system.

Also, researchers observed that pregnant workers who are constantly exposed to oil mist have given birth to infants with congenital heart defects. Workers are also at risk of accidents since oil mist sticks to surfaces and they can slip as a result.

Protect Your Environment and Your Business

Seeing as how harmful oil mist can be towards the environment, it is important to maintain cleanliness in the workplace. Observing cleanliness is especially important if your business uses such heavy machinery that relies on metalworking fluids.

To protect your machines, employees, and the environment, it’s important to remove oil mist. An oil mist collector will allow your facility to do just that.

An oil mist collector filters the oil mist that is hanging on the air. By investing in these devices, you can help prevent oil mist from affecting your operations floor, indoor air quality, and the environment. Workers are guaranteed clean air as they perform their jobs. They no longer have to worry about putting their health at risk.

It also helps keep the workplace safe and clean. Using an oil mist collector can help lessen slip and fall accidents and other incidents that oil mist can cause.

Nip this issue from the bud with the right device. Get in touch with AMT Machine Tools Ltd. We are here to help you maintain the safety of your facility. We offer excellent oil mist collectors that efficiently remove oil mist and ensure that your workplace is clean and safe. Please feel free to contact us at (416) 675-7760.