Adverse Health Effects in Workers Exposed to Trace/Toxic Metals at Workplace

Widespread use of metals in industrial activities has enhanced the occupational exposure to toxic metals as well as the health risks of metal hazards to humans. Elemental analysis in human tissues is the most common application of biological monitoring for screening, diagnosis and assessment of such exposures and risk. Among various biopsy materials, blood, hair, nails, teeth and body fluids may be used as bioindicators for this purpose. The present paper deals with the determination of Pb, Cr, Ni, Mn, Fe, Cu and Zn elemental concentration in workers exposed to these metals at workplace by atomic absorption spectrophotometry, with adequate quality control measures using hair as biopsy material. The study group includes the male workers such as welders, foundry man, fitter, hammer man, cupola man etc., besides office workers of locomotive workshop in Ajmer and surrounding areas exposed to different metals. Age and sex matched controls of persons working in the same area of work in offices etc. and not exposed to metal pollution were selected for valid comparison. It is proposed to validate the use of hair as a biological marker for assessing metal body burden of workers. In our study significant correlations have been found between skin disease and Cr, Mn, Fe, Cu; chest pain and Pb; hypertension and Cu, Mn; mental stress and Mn, Ni, Cu, Zn; liver problem and Ni; Indigestion and Cr, Ni; diabetes and Cr, Mn, Ni; tuberculosis and Zn; breathing trouble and Cr, Mn, Fe, Ni, Zn. The advantages of choosing hair as a biopsy material are also given.

Rita Mehra and Meenu Jujeha (Indian Journal of Biochemistry and Biophysics, April 2003)