An investigation into visual problems of crane operators at a petrochemical factory and the possible link with exposure to hydrocarbons
Steenkamp, Martha Katharina Johanna
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The aim of this investigation was to determine the exposure to total hydrocarbons including toluene and to determine if there are any relation between exposure to toluene and visual problems experienced by crane operators. Exposure to industrial chemicals can affect a number of sensory capacities including colour perception. The nature of a crane operator's duties does not allow for any error in judgement since this can have disastrous consequences. Colour vision and contrast sensitivity tests were performed on all 30 operators and on the control group. The results obtained from analysing air samples using OVM badges revealed levels of toluene ranging from 0 to 0.477 ppm. These levels are well below the threshold limit value (TLV) for toluene which is 50ppm. Hydrocarbon levels were also determined by biological monitoring. The levels of hippuric acid/g creatinine and ortho-cresol/ g creatinine in the urine were also lower than the threshold values. Some subjects of the experimental group did have problems with colour and contrast discrimination. Evident from the results is the fact that more problems regarding contrast sensitivity and colour discrimination were observed on the Friday than on the Monday but not statistically significantly so. Considering the findings, recommendations are made regarding minimum risk levels (MRLs) for toluene.
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