Subscribe Now Subscribe Today
Research Article
 

Respiratory Health Status of Workers that Exposed to Welding Fumes at Lumut Shipyard



Anuar Ithnin, Anas Zubir, Normah Awang and Nur Nabilah Mohamad Sulaiman
 
Facebook Twitter Digg Reddit Linkedin StumbleUpon E-mail
ABSTRACT

Background and Objective: Welding fume exposure has led to the respiratory problems among welders including cough, phlegm, chest illnesses, nausea and fatigue. Inadequate ventilation during welding works causes the situation to worsen. Welding fumes can cause a decrease in lung function among welders. Chronic exposure will lead to other health effects especially COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). The objective of this study is to determine the exposure of welding fumes (Cd, Fe, Pb and Zn) towards respiratory health including lung function test (FEV1, FVC, FEV1/FVC, PEFR) of workers in Lumut shipyard, Perak. Materials and Methods: This research study the relationship between exposures of welding fumes towards lung function test among workers in Lumut shipyard, Perak. Lung function test was measured by spirometry among 30 welders and 31 non-welders. The concentration welding fume exposure was measured using OSHA ID-121 method. Sociodemographic data, respiratory symptoms and smoking habit data was analyzed based on the ATS 1987 questionnaire. Results: The mean concentration for Pb in welding fumes was 2.752 mg m3 which is above 0.5 mg m3 PEL-TWA. The FEV1 and FVC readings showed significant different between welders and non-welders (p = 0.001). Cough and phlegm symptoms showed significant different between welders and non-welders (p = 0.001). Welders had higher prevalence in smoking habit than the non-welders. Chest illnesses symptom showed an association with the smoking habit (p = 0.01). Conclusion: There is relationship between welding fumes exposure on lung function test of workers in Lumut shipyard. Pb in welding fumes has high concentration and exceeded PEL-TWA level. The FEV1 and FVC in welders are lower than non-welder due to the fumes exposure. Welders showed higher respiratory symptoms than non-welders. Smoking habit is a contributing factor towards respiratory problem.

Services
Related Articles in ASCI
Similar Articles in this Journal
Search in Google Scholar
View Citation
Report Citation

 
  How to cite this article:

Anuar Ithnin, Anas Zubir, Normah Awang and Nur Nabilah Mohamad Sulaiman, 2019. Respiratory Health Status of Workers that Exposed to Welding Fumes at Lumut Shipyard. Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences, 22: 143-147.

DOI: 10.3923/pjbs.2019.143.147

URL: https://scialert.net/abstract/?doi=pjbs.2019.143.147
 
Copyright: © 2019. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the creative commons attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

INTRODUCTION

Welding is a process to join the metals by heating in suitable temperatures to melt the electrode metal1. It is the main process in industries such as construction, mining, petrochemical and shipping. Welding is carried out by melting and merging metal by heating the coated electrode arc between the metal and the work piece. Flux is an electrode outer layer that helps in generating the arc, shielding gas and slag during the welding work is performed2.

Welding fumes has a very small particle size. It consists of metal oxide particles and gases that could have toxic effects on human health3. Welding fumes are a complex mixture of toxic fumes and noxious gases. Metal particles compound in flux may result chemical reactions that could alter the composition of the fumes. The metal particles typically found in welding fumes are Aluminium, Beryllium, Cadmium, Chromium, Copper, Fluoride, Lead, Manganese and Zinc4.

Welders have higher exposure towards welding fumes. Individuals exposure depend on the location of the welding work being done including on the ship, confined space, workshops or in open areas5. Welding fumes in chronic exposure can lead to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). It is a common respiratory disease to the workers that exposed to welding fumes in along period of time. Welding fume particles can cause inflammation and oxidative damage to the respiratory tract. Bronchitis, siderosis and other pulmonary diseases can also occur as a result of exposure to welding fumes6.

A study by Koh et al.7 in Korean shipbuilding company showed that there is an association between exposure to welding fumes and COPD in welders. Welding fumes believed to cause a decrease in lung function and COPD among welders7. A study in Iran on automobile manufacturing company showed the lung function test (FEV1, FVC) is less among welders than the non-welders group8.

Since welding workers have the risk of getting many respiratory illness caused by welding fumes, the importance of this study is to give awareness to the workers and for the employer to plan a strategy to ensure safe working environment. This study was conducted to determine the exposure of welding fumes (Cd, Fe, Pb and Zn) towards respiratory health including lung function test (FEV1, FVC, FEV1/FVC, PEFR) of workers in Lumut shipyard, Perak.

MATERIALS AND METHODS

Study area: This study is a cross-sectional study that involved workers in Lumut shipyard, Lumut, Perak, Malaysia. This research have been done from September, 2014 until June, 2015. About 30 welders in welding workshop have been selected as an expose group and 31 non-welders as a control group. Total number of respondent is 61.

Socio-demographic background and respiratory symptoms: The questionnaire used was based on the American Thoracic Society9. There are three components in the questionnaires, sociodemographic background, respiratory symptoms and smoking habits.

Determination of concentration of welding fumes exposure: Gil Air Plus Personal Air Sampling Pump has been used to determine the concentration levels of welding fume exposure. Mixed Cellulose Esters (MCE) filter paper was used in this measurement. This device was placed in worker’s breathing zone while they performing their study. Samples were collected at a maximum flow rate of 2.0 L min1 until reaching a volume of 480-960 L. Then, this MCE filter paper will undergo acid digestion according to OSHA ID-121 method and was analyzed by using Atomic Absorption Spectrometer (AAS). The concentration of Cd, Fe, Pb and Zn in welding fumes were compared with PEL-TWA for air pollutants10.

Lung function test: Spirometer was used to measure the amount of inspiration and expiration capacity of lung. The spirometry readings (FEV1, FVC, FEV1/FVC and PEFR) were measured. The FEV1 (Forced Expiratory Volume in 1 sec) is the volume of air that the respondent is able to exhale in the 1st sec of forced expiration. The FVC (Forced Vital Capacity) is the total volume of air that the patient can forcibly exhale in one breath. FEV1/FVC is the ratio of FEV1 to FVC expressed as a fraction11. The PEFR (Peak Expiratory Flow Rate) help to assess the degree of airflow obstruction and subjects. This device has a scale of 60-800 L min1.

The normal level for spirometry tests are FEV1 and FVC are 80% above predicted and FEV1/FVC above 70%. Abnormal levels are divided into obstructive and restrictive. Obstructive pattern will show FEV1 is less than 80% predicted, FVC is normal or less than the FEV1 and FEV1/FVC is less than 70%. Restrictive pattern will show FVC is below 80% predicted FEV1 is normal or mildly reduced and FEV1/FVC is above 70%.

Statistical analysis: The values obtained were recorded as mean±SD (Standard Deviation) for statistical evaluation. Data was evaluated using independent t-test to analyze the readings of lung function test and respiratory symptom using SPSS (Statistical Package for Social Studies) Version 20.0 software. Then, Chi-Square test used to analyze the relationship between respiratory symptom and smoking habit. The p<0.05 was taken to be statistically significant with CI (Confidence Interval) of 95%.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

Demographic data of welders and non-welders were shown in Table 1 and 2. There was no significant different between this two group in socio-demographic factor. It is important to avoid other factors that can affect the reading of lung function test.

Table 3 showed the concentration of welding fumes exposure. The overall mean concentration for Cd was within the permissible limit by OSHA10 (0.1 mg m3 ). Cadmium was easily found along with Zn and Pb. Cd has been used in the processing industry as an anti-corrosion agent. Exposure of Cd in human body can occur through ingestion, inhalation and dermal contact12. High exposure of Cd can cause shortness of breath and damage to the mucous membrane13. Moreover, chronic exposure to Cd has been a major problem for kidney damage14.

For the Fe, the mean concentration for Fe was also within the limit by OSHA10 (10.0 mg m3 ) which was 0.151 mg m3. Welding materials contained ferrous element. Ferum oxide, Fe2O3 is the most abundant constituent resulting from the welding work. Continuous exposure to welding fumes can lead to deposition of iron particles in the lungs2. Chronic inhalation of welding fumes containing Fe particles can cause siderosis. This effect was also seen in many iron ore miners and workers15.

Next, the mean concentration for Pb was 2.752 mg m3 which are above 0.5 mg m3 PEL-TWA by OSHA10. The Pb exposure can cause lung cancer, asthma and COPD16. According to Khazdair et al.16, the workers that exposed to Pb materials has experienced more respiratory symptoms compared to the unexposed workers. Urine test and serum concentrations of Pb in exposed workers were found to be higher than unexposed workers. These results showed lead exposure affects the respiratory system. Other respiratory symptoms resulting from acute lead exposure are headaches, difficult to breathe and others.

Table 1: Socio-demographic data (N = 61)
*Significant at p<0.05

Table 2: Socio-demographic data (N = 61)
*Significant at p<0.05

Table 3: Welding fume concentration
*Significant at p<0.05

Table 4:Lung function test between welders and non-welders

Table 5: Prevalence of respiratory symptoms in welders and non-welders
*Significant at p<0.05

Furthermore, in this study, the mean value for Zn was 0.006 mg m3 which was below 5.0 mg m3 PEL-TWA by OSHA10. Metal fume fever can be resulted to the effect of Zn exposure through inhalation. This acute syndrome mostly occurred through inhalation of fumes particle size less than 1 μm. The workers started to recover a few hours after exposure. Other symptoms were fever, muscle pain, lethargy, chest pain and coughing17.

From the statistical analysis of the data, there was a significant different between welders and non-welders in FEV1 and FVC readings. However, FEV1/FVC and PEFR showed no significant different between welders and non-welders. The FEV1, FVC, FEV1/FVC and PEFR readings is lower in welders compared to non-welders (Table 4). This can be support from the research done by Sharifian et al.1 that showed the association between effect of welding fume towards lung function of welders. According to Sharifian et al.1, welders with exposure longer than 5 years showed lower in FEV1 and FEV1/FVC. The fume particulates from weld activity may cause inflammation and oxidative damage to the airways and also lead to COPD6.

Based on independent t-test, cough and phlegm symptoms showed significant different between welders and non-welders (Table 5) while wheezing and chest illnesses symptoms showed no significant different between both group. For cough and phlegm, welder seemed to have higher symptom non-welders. Many research have showed a higher prevalence of respiratory symptoms in welders due to the accumulation of welding particles in respiratory tract which will increase mucus1.

Table 6: Smoking habit between welders and non-welders
*Significant at p<0.05

Table 7: Relationship between respiratory symptoms and smoking habit
*Significant at p<0.05

As shown in Table 6, there was a significant different of the smoking habit between welders and non-welders. Welders have higher prevalence in smoking habit than the non-welders. Table 7 showed an association between the smoking habits with respiratory symptoms. From the Chi-square test, there was an association between chest illnesses symptom and smoking habit. This result can be supported by the research from Kakoee8 that stated most welders with respiratory symptoms were a smoker and consumed tobacco. Based on a study18, there is a synergistic relationship between the smoking habit and welding fume exposure with lung disease. It also increased the respiratory symptoms among workers. Negative effects of the lung function were related to the smoking habit19. From the previous study20, smokers seemed to have highest risk for respiratory symptoms and lung function loss.

CONCLUSION

In a conclusion, there is relationship between welding fumes exposure on lung function test of workers in Lumut shipyard. Pb in welding fumes has high concentration and exceeded PEL-TWA level. The FEV1 and FVC in welders are lower than non-welder due to the fumes exposure. Welders show higher respiratory symptoms than non-welders. Besides, smoking habit was also one of a contributing factor towards respiratory problem.

SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT

Most of the previous study only focus on the respiratory symptoms and spirometry test to the welders, while this study comprises of the lung function test, the respiratory symptoms and also monitoring the individuals exposure to the welding fumes which were Cd, Fe, Pb and Zn. From this study, it could determine whether the exposure to these heavy metals within limits or not. The exposure to the Pb was above the permissible limit. The results have been submitted to the administration of the industry to take proper control measure such as elimination, substitution or engineering control in order to minimize the exposure. Besides, this study differ from other study as this study has been done at the shipyard industry which the exposure and concentration of heavy metals would be different in each industry.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT

Besides, the authors also would like to thank GGP-2017-064 grant for financial support.

REFERENCES
1:  Sharifian, S.A., Z. Loukzadeh, S. Shojaoddiny-Ardekani and O. Aminian, 2011. Pulmonary adverse effects of welding fume in automobile assembly welders. Acta Med. Iran., 49: 98-102.
Direct Link  |  

2:  NOHSC., 1990. Welding: Fumes and gases. National Occupational Health and Safety Commission (NOHSC), Safe Work Australia, November 1990, pp: 1-32.

3:  Pires, I., L. Quintino, R.M. Miranda and J.F.P. Gomes, 2006. Fume emissions during gas metal arc welding. Toxicol. Environ. Chem., 88: 385-394.
CrossRef  |  Direct Link  |  

4:  Popovic, O., R. Prokic-Cvetkovic, M. Burzic, U. Lukic and B. Beljic, 2014. Fume and gas emission during arc welding: Hazards and recommendation. Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev., 37: 509-516.
CrossRef  |  Direct Link  |  

5:  Ojima, J., N. Shibata and T. Iwasaki, 2000. Laboratory evaluation of welder's exposure and efficiency of air duct ventilation for welding work in a confined space. Ind. Health, 38: 24-29.
CrossRef  |  Direct Link  |  

6:  Christensen, S.W., J.P. Bonde and O. Omland, 2008. A prospective study of decline in lung function in relation to welding emissions. J. Occup. Med. Toxicol., Vol. 3. 10.1186/1745-6673-3-6

7:  Koh, D.H., J.I. Kim, K.H. Kim and S.W. Yoo, 2015. Welding fume exposure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in welders. Occup. Med., 65: 72-77.
CrossRef  |  Direct Link  |  

8:  Kakoee, H., 1998. Relationship between concentration of welding fumes and changes in welders' lung functions. Med. J. Islamic Republic of Iran, 11: 325-328.
Direct Link  |  

9:  American Thoracic Society, 1987. Standardization of spirometry 1987 update. Am. Rev. Respir. Dis., 136: 1285-1298.
CrossRef  |  PubMed  |  Direct Link  |  

10:  OSHA., 2002. Metal and metalloid particulates in workplace atmospheres (atomic absorption). OSHA Method ID-121, February 2002, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Washington, DC., USA.

11:  GOLD., 2011. The global strategy for diagnosis, management and prevention of COPD. Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (GOLD), Gaithersberg, MD., USA.

12:  Godt, J., F. Scheidig, C. Grosse-Siestrup, V. Esche, P. Brandenburg, A. Reich and D.A. Groneberg, 2006. The toxicity of cadmium and resulting hazards for human health. J. Occup. Med. Toxicol., Vol. 1. 10.1186/1745-6673-1-22

13:  Seidal, K., N. Jorgensen, C.G. Elinder, B. Sjogren and M. Vahter, 1993. Fatal cadmium-induced pneumonitis. Scand. J. Work Envrion. Health, 19: 429-431.
Direct Link  |  

14:  Barbier, O., G.T. Jacquille, M. Tauc, M. Cougnan and P. Poujeol, 2005. Effect of heavy metals on and handling by, the kidney. Nephron Physiol., 99: 105-110.
Direct Link  |  

15:  Gurzau, E.S., C. Neagu and A.E. Gurzau, 2003. Essential metals-case study on Iron. Ecotoxicol. Environ. Saf., 56: 190-200.
CrossRef  |  PubMed  |  Direct Link  |  

16:  Khazdair, M.R., M.H. Boskabady, R. Afshari, B. Dadpour and A. Behforouz et al., 2012. Respiratory symptoms and pulmonary function testes in lead exposed workers. Iranian Red. Crescent Med. J., 14: 737-742.
CrossRef  |  PubMed  |  Direct Link  |  

17:  Plum, L.M., L. Rink and H. Haase, 2010. The essential toxin: Impact of zinc on human health. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health, 7: 1342-1365.
CrossRef  |  Direct Link  |  

18:  Jafari, A.J. and M.J. Assari, 2004. Respiratory effects from work-related exposure to welding fumes in Hamadan, Iran. Arch. Environ. Health: Int. J., 59: 116-120.
CrossRef  |  Direct Link  |  

19:  Hamatui, N., R.N. Naidoo and N. Kgabi, 2016. Respiratory health effects of occupational exposure to charcoal dust in Namibia. Int. J. Occup. Environ. Health, 22: 240-248.
CrossRef  |  Direct Link  |  

20:  Diaz, J.V., J. Koff, M.B. Gotway, S. Nishimura and J.R. Balmes, 2006. Case report: A case of wood-smoke-related pulmonary disease. Environ. Health Perspect., 114: 759-762.
CrossRef  |  Direct Link  |  

©  2021 Science Alert. All Rights Reserved