Dermal exposure to platinum group metals at a precious metal refinery : a pilot study
Background: Workers in a platinum group metals (PGMs) refinery are potentially exposed to various precious metals (iridium, osmium, palladium, platinum, rhodium and ruthenium) and their metal-salt compounds which may cause rhinitis, asthma, contact urticaria and conjunctivitis. Some cases revealed that sensitisation occurred in employees where it was not possible to detect any airborne soluble platinum or where the respiratory soluble platinum exposure was below the occupational exposure limit. It is unclear whether respiratory exposure or a combination of respiratory and dermal exposure may be involved in sensitisation and the possible elicitation of skin symptoms. Objectives: To determine if dermal exposure to PGMs took place during the refining process and in the administration area by using a removal method and to compare dermal exposure on the different anatomical areas and in two different working areas, Areas A and B for each of the PGMs. Methods: Dermal exposure samples were collected with a removal method using GhostwipesTM. The samples were collected from the palm of the hands, the wrists and the necks of the workers, before the shift started, before tea time, before lunch time and after the shift ended. The skin wipes were analysed for the PGMs (iridium, osmium, palladium, platinum, ruthenium and rhodium) according to Methods for the Determination of Hazardous Substances (MDHS) method 46/2, using Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry. Results: No published data is available on occupational dermal exposure to PGMs in a precious metals refinery. This study proved that dermal exposure to PGMs in the refinery took place and was quantified. The PGM dermal exposure results in general, were very low (measured in nano grams), with platinum having the overall highest exposure. Exposure also occurred the most frequently during the last two intervals of the day, before lunch time and at the end of the shift. Exposure on all three the anatomical areas that were tested in the study, varied much with the palm of the hands having the highest exposure levels. There were also variations in exposure between areas A and B due to the fact that the processes in these two areas differ. Conclusions: It was confirmed that dermal exposure to PGMs took place at the precious metals refinery. The highest exposure took place before lunch time and towards the end of the shift. The metal to which the workers were exposed the most was platinum and the production area where the workers had the highest exposure to most of the metals was Area B.
- Health Sciences