Journal of environmental monitoring : JEM vol:7 issue:12 pages:1359-63
To date the exposure, absorption and respiratory health effects of cast-house workers have not been described since most studies performed in the aluminium industry are focused on exposure and health effects of potroom personnel. In the present study, we assessed the external exposure and the absorbed dose of metals in personnel from the aluminium cast house. This was combined with an evaluation of respiratory complaints and the lung function of the personnel. 30 workers from an aluminium casting plant participated and 17 individuals of the packaging and distribution departments were selected as controls. The exposure was assessed by the quantification of total inhalable fume with metal fraction and by the determination of urinary aluminium, chromium, beryllium, manganese and lead concentration. Carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), aldehydes and polyaromatic hydrocarbons and man-made mineral fibres concentration were assessed as well. In order to evaluate their respiratory status each participant filled out a questionnaire and their lung function was tested by forced spirometry. Total inhalable fume exposure was maximum 4.37 mg m(-3). Exposure to the combustion gases, man-made mineral fibres and metal fume was well below the exposure limits. Beryllium could not be detected in the urine. The values of aluminium, manganese and lead in the urine were all under the respective reference value. One individual had a urinary chromium excretion above the ACGIH defined biological exposure index (BEI) of 30 microg g(-1) creatinine. There was no significant difference in any of the categories of the respiratory questionnaire and in the results of the spirometry between cast house personnel and referents (Chi-square, all p > 0.05). Exposure in cast houses seem to be acceptable under these conditions. However, peak exposure to fumes cannot be excluded and the potential risk of chromium and beryllium exposure due to the recycling of aluminium requires further attention.