A chemical investigation of employees — How to distinguish a blue collar from a white one

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The objective of the investigation was to compare and to analyze hair trace element content in workers of different departments of a petrochemical plant. A total of 75 men working in an office (engineers), and different departments of the petrochemical plant, as well as occupationally non-exposed persons, were examined. Hair trace element levels were analyzed using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry.

The office workers were characterized by the highest hair As, Hg, Sn, I, and Si content as compared to the workers of other departments, whereas the level of those elements did not differ significantly from the control values. It is notable that hair Be levels in all employees of petrochemical plant were significantly lower, whereas Se content was significantly higher than that in unexposed controls.

Hair toxic trace element content in workers directly involved in industrial processes did not differ significantly or was lower than that in the control group. At the same time, the highest levels of essential trace elements (Cr, Fe, and I) were observed in employees working in primary oil refining (D1). Hair levels of Co, I, and Li were maximal in persons of sulfur and bitumen-producing division (D4). The lowest levels of both essential and toxic trace elements in hair were detected in employees involved in production of liquefied gas, kerosene, and diesel fuel (D3).

The obtained data demonstrate that involvement in different technological processes in petrochemical complex differentially affect hair trace element content in workers.

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