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Cardiotoxicity of Freon among refrigeration services workers: comparative cross-sectional study

Author(s): Sabik Laila | Abbas Reem | Ismail Mahmoud | El-Refaei Safwat

Journal: Environmental Health : A Global Access Science Source
ISSN 1476-069X

Volume: 8;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 31;
Date: 2009;
Original page

Abstract Background Freon includes a number of gaseous, colorless chlorofluorocarbons. Although freon is generally considered to be a fluorocarbon of relatively low toxicity; significantly detrimental effects may occur upon over exposure. The purpose of the present study is to investigate whether occupational exposure to fluorocarbons can induce arterial hypertension, myocardial ischemia, cardiac arrhythmias, elevated levels of plasma lipids and renal dysfunction. Methods This comparative cross-sectional study was conducted at the cardiology clinic of the Suez Canal Authority Hospital (Egypt). The study included 23 apparently healthy male workers at the refrigeration services workshop who were exposed to fluorocarbons (FC 12 and FC 22) and 23 likewise apparently healthy male workers (unexposed), the control group. All the participants were interviewed using a pre-composed questionnaire and were subjected to a clinical examination and relevant laboratory investigations. Results There were no significant statistical differences between the groups studied regarding symptoms suggesting arterial hypertension and renal affection, although a significantly higher percentage of the studied refrigeration services workers had symptoms of arrhythmias. None of the workers had symptoms suggesting coronary artery disease. Clinical examination revealed that the refrigeration services workers had a significantly higher mean pulse rate compared to the controls, though no significant statistical differences were found in arterial blood pressure measurements between the two study groups. Exercise stress testing of the workers studied revealed normal heart reaction to the increased need for oxygen, while sinus tachycardia was detected in all the participants. The results of Holter monitoring revealed significant differences within subject and group regarding the number of abnormal beats detected throughout the day of monitoring (p < 0.001). There were no significant differences detected in the average heart rate during the monitoring period within subject or group. Most laboratory investigations revealed absence of significant statistical differences for lipid profile markers, serum electrolyte levels and glomerular lesion markers between the groups except for cholesterol and urinary β2-microglobulin (tubular lesion markers) levels which were significantly elevated in freon exposed workers. Conclusions Unprotected occupational exposure to chlorofluorocarbons can induce cardiotoxicity in the form of cardiac arrhythmias. The role of chlorofluorocarbons in inducing arterial hypertension and coronary artery diseases is unclear, although significantly elevated serum cholesterol and urinary β2-microglobulin levels raise a concern.

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