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Health effects associated with occupational exposure to low levels of mercury vapors by employees of a chloralkali plant

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Author(s): M. Neghab | M. Kardaneyan | M.A. Norozi

Journal: Iran Occupational Health
ISSN 1735-5133

Volume: 7;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 4;
Date: 2010;
Original page

Keywords: Chloralkali plant | Mercury exposure | Neurological and psychological symptoms

ABSTRACT
  Background and aims   The present study carried out to evaluate health effects associated with chronic occupational exposure to low levels of mercury vapors.     Methods   The study population consisted of 46 male workers occupationally exposed to  mercury vapors and 65 healthy unexposed employees. Subjects were administered a questionnaire on symptoms experienced and underwent clinical examinations as well routine biochemical tests.   Additionally, using standard methods, atmospheric and urinary concentrations of mercury were measured.     Results   Environmental and urinary concentrations of mercury were estimated to be 3/97±6/28  μg/m 2 and 34/30±26/77 μg/lit, respectively. While these values were blow the recommended TLV and BEI for this substance, exposed subjects had significantly higher concentrations of urinary mercury levels than their unexposed counterparts. No significant differences were noted between CBC, BUN, serum creatinine or serum activity of liver enzymes of both groups. Conversely, analysis of the data revealed that symptoms such as somatic and mental fatigue, anorexia, loss off  memory and personality change were significantly more common among exposed individuals.  Likewise, painful spasm of the extremities, irritability, vague fears and insomnia were more frequent among exposed population, although the differences were not statistically significant.     Conclusion Theses observations indicate that occupational exposure to mercury vapors, even at low levels, is likely to be associated with neurological and psychological symptoms.  
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