Exposure of workers to nickel, copper and lead in a base metal recovery plant and laboratory
MetadataShow full item record
Objectives: The objectives of this study were to establish the extent of dermal and respiratory exposure at selected locations at a South African platinum mine. The study included exposure to lead oxide fumes in an assay laboratory, nickel sulfate powder at a nickel sulfate crystallizer circuit and packing site and metallic copper dust whilst executing copper stripping. Methods: In an availability study, the dermal metal exposures were measured before, during and at the end of shifts. Dermal exposure samples were taken with GhostwipesTM from the dominant hand, wrist and forehead. Wipes were analyzed using Inductively Coupled Plasma-Atomic Emission Spectroscopy (ICP-AES). Wipe samples were taken from surfaces in the workplace and analyzed according to NIOSH 9102, using ICP-AES. Personal and static inhalable dust samples were taken and the dust samples were analyzed according to NIOSH 7300, using ICP-AES. A validated questionnaire was used to evaluate self reported dermatological complaints of the workers at the fire assay laboratory and base metal recovery plant. Results: 100% of the nickel respiratory exposures and 36.8% of the lead respiratory exposures were above the occupational exposure limits (OEL). Copper respiratory exposure was present but less significant with a geometric mean of 0.071 mg m-3. All of the dermal lead measurements and the majority of the nickel and copper dermal measurements were below the limit of detection. Nickel surface contamination was the most significant and ranged between 8.430 μg cm-2 and 387.488 μg cm-2. Only 30% of the copper surface sample results were below the detection limit with a maximum surface sample of 14.41 μg cm-2. Lead surface contamination was low with 90% of the samples below the limit of detection. All of the workers at the nickel crystallizer circuit and packing site had a Dalgard score above 1.3 and therefore are at a higher risk of developing a skin disease. None of the workers at the copper stripping site had a significant Dalgard score and only one worker at the fire assay laboratory had a score above 1.3 and therefore is at a higher risk of developing a skin disease. Conclusions: Recommendations were made to lower the exposure to inhalable lead and nickel. The low lead dermal measurements may be due to adequate personal protective equipment usage and hygiene practices. Although the ethnicity of the workers may be the reason for the low incidence of dermatological complaints, the Dalgard score indicated that five workers are at risk of developing skin diseases.
- Health Sciences