Health status of copper refinery workers with specific reference to selenium exposure.


Holness DL, Taraschuk IG, Nethercott JR




Arch Environ Health


Copper refinery workers exposed to selenium were studied before, during, and after a shutdown period. Urine selenium levels were 83 +/- 30 mumol/mol creatinine and 69 +/- 27 mumol/mol creatinine when measured on two occasions during exposure compared with 56 +/- 17 mumol/mol creatinine when the workers had been free of exposure for 10 wk during a shutdown. The refinery workers reported more nose and eye irritation, indigestion, stomach pain, and fatigue than controls. "Garlic-like" breath odor was reported to be personally and socially offensive by many of the workers. Reporting of symptoms, pulmonary function indices, and laboratory test results did not change with exposure except for hemoglobin level, which rose during the shutdown. Hemoglobin levels were found to be inversely correlated with the urine selenium level, and there was a positive correlation noted for the interactive effect of urine selenium and urine arsenic levels on hemoglobin.