Respiratory Diseases Due to Occupational Exposure to Nickel and Chromium among Factory Workers in Kenya

Faridah H Were, M CM, Wafula GA. "Respiratory Diseases Due to Occupational Exposure to Nickel and Chromium among Factory Workers in Kenya." Journal of Community Medicine & Health Education. 2013;3(7):1-7.


Inhalation of airborne nickel (Ni) and chromium (Cr) in workplaces causes a variety of respiratory ailments which
adversely affects the productivity of employees. A study was therefore conducted on production workers (N=233) from
six different types industrial plants, to investigate the influence of Ni and Cr exposure on their respiratory systems.
Breathing zone air and urinary samples were collected, and analyzed for total Ni and Cr using atomic absorption
spectroscopy. The medical history of the workers was obtained using questionnaires. Their lung functions were further
examined using a spirometer. Mean (± standard deviation) breathing zone air of 23.4 ± 11.6 μg/m3 Cr and 10.3 ± 4.3 μg/
m3 Ni was highest among the tanners and welders, respectively. The mean level of 35.2 ± 12.1 Cr and 28.4 ± 7.8 Ni in
μg/g creatinine were also highest in the urine of corresponding workers. A significant (P<0.01) correlation of r=0.86 Cr
and r=0.89 Ni was observed between airborne and urinary levels in all production workers. Approximately 26.6% of the
workers had respiratory diseases that were associated with wheezing, shortness of breath, sneezing attacks among
other related symptoms. Most of these workers were welders, tanners and, to lesser extent, paint manufacturers. The
breathing zone air of the afflicted workers had significantly (P<0.05) high mean levels of 6.4 ± 4.4 μg/m3 Ni and 9.6 ±
5.3 μg/m3 Cr than those who were not affected (3.9 ± 3.2 μg/m3 Ni and 4.4 ± 3.8 μg/m3 Cr). A high proportion of the
workers had reduced ventilatory function measurements. We recommend comprehensive assessment of Cr and Ni in
related industries with significant exposures. Designing and developing of training programs and educative manuals
on safety and health procedures, and regular medical surveillance is also recommended.


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