Health status of petrochemical workers: a narrative review


Professional exposure to benzene has been extensively investigated by occupational medicine, leading to strict regulation of exposure threshold values. However, the petrochemical industry utilizes many chemical substances, whose exposure, without effective control and mitigation actions, could influence the health status over time. The aim of this narrative review is to describe health status of petrochemical workers related to occupational exposures, inquiring literature from 1980 to present. We used the PubMed and Web of Science search engines. As regards non-neoplastic diseases, despite heterogeneous prevalence estimates, we could say that standardized mortality rate (SMR) for hypertension, hypercholesterolemia and diabetes does not increase overall, compared to reference populations; a possible explanation may be the “healthy worker effect”. Attention should be paid to color disperception and respiratory symptoms, due to toxic or irritating substances exposure. Studies concerning neoplastic pathology have mainly investigated mortality outcomes, finding no increase in cancer, except for melanoma or other skin cancers and leukemia. As regards the former, however, it is not excluded that other risk factors may contribute (e.g. UV rays in offshore workers), while for leukemia, only the most recent studies have analyzed various subtypes of hematopoietic tumors, highlighting a possible risk for the development of myelodysplastic syndrome. The risk of pleural mesothelioma was also increased, likely due to asbestos exposures, while the risk of death from prostate cancer remains controversial.

Authors: Federico Fassio, Martino Bussa, Enrico Oddone, Ottavia Eleonora Ferraro, Mariangela Valentina Puci, Anna Morandi, Fabio Castaldo, Massimo Broi, Filippo Uberti, Simona Villani, Cristina Montomoli, Maria Cristina Monti
; Full Source: Giornale italiano di medicina del lavoro ed ergonomia 2022 Mar;44(1):51-58.