Influence of task-based airborne lead exposures on blood lead levels: a case study of informal automobile repair artisans in Nakuru town, Kenya
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Lead poisoning is an emerging worldwide public health concern, especially in the developing countries. Occupational tasks such as spray painting and welding in informal automobile repair enterprises present risks of exposures to lead generally through inhalation and ingestion. The artisans therefore risk high blood lead (BPb) levels, which is critical to chronic adverse health effects of lead. The study aimed at assessing the influence of occupational tasks on personal airborne lead exposures and to evaluate the association between these exposures with blood lead (BPb) levels among the artisans. A cross-sectional study was conducted in ten informal automobile repair workshops. Task-specific personal inhalable air samples and blood samples were collected concurrently for 20 participants performing five distinct occupational tasks. Lead levels were analysed using inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy and data analysed by analysis of variance, simple and multiple linear regressions. The results indicated significant differences in airborne lead (PbA) exposure levels in different occupational tasks (p = 0.000). Lead–acid battery repairs recorded mean PbA exposure level of [76.11 ± (10.81 SE) µg/m3] exceeding the WHO 50 µg/m3 airborne lead permissible exposure limit. The average (PbA) exposure level was 22.55 ± (5.05 SE) µg/m3, while the mean (BPb) level was 25.08 ± (3.48 SE) µg/dl. A significant positive correlation between task-based airborne lead with blood lead levels was observed (r = 0.68, p = 0.001). In conclusion, the occupational tasks influenced personal airborne lead exposure levels, which in turn was an important predictor of blood lead levels. The study recommends lead exposure assessments, medical screening and intervention measures to minimize the risk and consequences of occupational exposures to lead among the study population.
KeywordsTask-based airborne lead Blood lead levels Occupational tasks Informal automobile repairs Lead poisoning
The authors wish to thank the artisans who consented and participated in the study, the departments of Biochemistry and Environmental Science of Egerton University, and the local government public health authorities for their kind cooperation and technical assistance during the period of study. The authors also thank Kenya National Research Fund (NRF) (Grant No. NRF Ist/2016-2017/Eger 07) for the financial assistance.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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