Risk Behaviour of lead-exposed Workers and Hearing Impairment

Background: The widespread use of lead and its components has its hazards and causes health disorders to industrial workers. The hazards are determined by a number of factors e.g. work process, ventilation, general hygienic condition of the workroom and personnel 1, and preventive measures. No prevalence of deafness associate with lead exposed workers was found in Egypt. However, there is an increase in allcause mortality with high blood lead level.

Aim and objectives: The aims of this study are:

1. To determine the association between elevated blood lead levels and hearing impairment in leadexposed workers.

2. To investigate the use of preventive measures

Methods and study design: The study was conducted on a random sample of 61 lead-exposed (mean age 40.4 years) and 50 non-exposed male workers (mean age 39.2 years) in printing presses and battery industries in Cairo. Blood lead levels were determined and an audiometric evaluation was done at different frequencies (500-8000 Hz). The use of preventive measures for lead-exposed workers was investigated and regular check-up.

Results/ Findings: The mean blood lead level in the lead-exposed group was 52.5 μg/dl + 21.5, and in the non-exposed was 18.2 μg/dl + 5.9 (t=10.9 (CI 28.1 – 40.5) p<0.001). There was a significant correlation r=0.7 between blood lead levels and binaural hearing. The audiometric evaluations revealed significant positive correlation between blood lead level in exposed workers and hearing impairment. All lead exposed workers had hearing impairment at different frequencies. Although all workers were aware of protective devices against lead exposure, 100% of them did not use any. They also did not go to regular checkups.

Study limitations: Researchers could not assess the environmental lead levels in workers' residences.

Conclusions: Hearing impairment in lead-exposed workers in printing presses and battery industries in Cairo is inevitable and irreversible. The mean blood lead level in the lead-exposed group was 52.5μg/dl, and in the non-exposed was 18.2μg/dl. All workers didn’t use any protective devices or go to regular checkups.

Author(s): Salma Galal, Gamal H El-Samra , Manal Mazhar , Fatma El-Kholy , Amel Hegazy

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