Kwikgehaltes in het haar van de Lokerse haarsnijders
Onderzoeksoutput: Boek/rapport › Boek niet door INBO uitgegeven › Onderzoek
|Uitgeverij||Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)|
|Status||Gepubliceerd - jul-2001|
In the Lokeren felt industry, mercury was used in the production proces until the seventies. Because no one realised the toxicity of mercury in the beginning, workers used mercury without any protection, so they were exposed to high concentrations. A strong contamination was possible by inhalation and absorption through the skin, sometimes leading to severe symptoms of poisoning. The intention of this research was to investigate if now, 30 years after the use of mercury became forbidden, the workers still have elevated mercury concentrations in their body.
From 65 people that worked for the felt industry in Lokeren a sample of scalp hair was analysed to measure the total mercury concentration. The mercury concentrations did not differ significantly from those of 10 controle people living randomly in Lokeren (p=0,612). Both former workers as people who still do the work have no more mercury in their scalp hair than the rest of the Lokeren population, proving that the past severe mercury contamination has almost disappeared. This result was more or less expected because of the half life time of mercury in the human body, which is estimated to be only 70 days. The results show that the actual mercury concentrations in the hair are mainly determined by the pattern of fish consumption (y = 0,2148x + 0.0817; R² = 0,81). But a more detailled analysis, after standardisation of the mercury values for fish consumption, reveals that there are subtle effects of the former mercury use. People who did the most dangerous jobs, like the preparation of the mercury solution, clearly have higher mercury values than the others (p=0,016). This also explains the difference between men and women (M : 0,415 µg Hg/g hair > F : 0,267 µg Hg/g hair; p=0,004), as the working with pure mercury products was done exclusively by men. Also the fact that the group aged older than 70 shows higher mercury concentrations (p=0,032) is a consequence of the work for the industry, because these people were mainly active in the period before 1970.
Besides determining the mercury concentration a number of questions were posed about the health of the workers, in relation to the specific jobs they did. A remarkable number of people complained about abnormal tooth loss, lung diseases and discolouring of the scalp hair. However, it was not possible to find a relationship between the hair mercury concentrations and these problems. Perhaps the frequent use of concentrated acids, like nitric acid and hydrochloric acid played a role in these.
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