Low-level exposure to lead dust in unusual work schedules and hematologic, renal, and hepatic parameters


Background: Many workers are exposed to lead dust in lead‑zinc mines. Exposure to this heavy toxic metal and its compounds can cause irreversible adverse health effects. Objective: To assess possible hematotoxic, nephrotoxic, and hepatotoxic potentials of low levels of lead in a group of mine workers exposed to this heavy metal in an unusual work schedule.

Methods: A total of 73 exposed and 70 non-exposed employees were interviewed. Demographic data, and occupational and medical history of the employees were obtained by questionnaires. Air monitoring was performed to determine the workers’ time-weighted average (TWA) exposure to lead dust. The threshold limit value (TLV) for lead was adjusted for unusual work schedules according to the model developed by the University of Montreal and the Institute de Recherche en Sante et en Securite du Travail (IRSST). Blood samples were collected for complete blood count, liver and kidney function tests. Data were analyzed using version 21.0 of the SPSS software.

Results: The TWA exposure of workers was 24 μg/m3. On average, the worker’s exposure to lead dust did not exceed the 8-h OSHA and ACGIH TLV-TWA of 50 μg/m3. Significant associations were found only between exposure to lead and platelet count, red cell distribution width, total protein, and albumin.

Conclusions: Exposure to low levels of lead dust in unusual work schedules was not associated with overt hematotoxicity, hepatotoxicity or nephrotoxicity. However, mild, sub-clinical, pre-pathologic significant changes were noted in some blood parameters of the exposed employees as compared with their referent counterparts.

Authors: Fateme Kooshki, Masoud Neghab, Esmaeel Soleimani, Jafar Hasanzadeh
; Full Source: Toxicology and applied pharmacology 2021 Feb 9;115448. doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2021.115448.