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Evaluation of half-mask respirator protection in styrene-exposed workers

  • F. Gobba
  • S. Ghittori
  • M. Imbriani
  • A. Cavalleri
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Abstract

Objective: The protection afforded by respirators to styrene (St)-exposed workers varies considerably. Our objective was to study the effective `in the field' reduction in St exposure obtained by negative-pressure half-mask respirators worn by a group of fiberglass-reinforced plastics (FRP) workers. Protection was evaluated by measuring the reduction in urinary St (StU) excretion. Methods: Seven FRP workers not using respiratory protection devices were studied for a week. External exposure to St was evaluated by personal passive sampling, and the internal dose by StU measurement. Then workers were asked to use a half-mask respirator for a week for the entire morning half-shift, and St exposure and internal dose were re-assessed. Results:. Mean environmental levels of St during the morning half-shift were 230–280 mg/m3, i.e., about three times the current limit proposed by ACGIH; the difference among days was not significant. Using respirators was accompanied by a large inter-individual and also intra-individual variability: the estimated reduction of StU values ranged from 30% to 90% (mean 60%). Mean StU values increased by 50% from Monday to Friday, while environmental St concentrations remained steady. Furthermore, the proportion of workers exceeding the biological equivalent exposure limit (BEEL) was 14% on Monday, double (33%) on Thursday, and triple (43%) on Friday. These data suggest a decrease of protection during the week. Conclusions: The protection afforded by negative-pressure half-mask respirators varies widely, which stresses the need to assess the effective reduction of exposure whenever these devices are introduced for St-exposed workers. If respirators are to be re-used for several days, their performance must be evaluated during the last shift of use. Measurement of urinary excretion of unmodified St proved a useful tool for the evaluation of respirator effectiveness in exposed workers.

Key words Styrene Occupational exposure Respiratory protective devices Protection assessment Urinary styrene 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • F. Gobba
    • 1
  • S. Ghittori
    • 2
  • M. Imbriani
    • 3
  • A. Cavalleri
    • 4
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Scienze Igienistiche, Microbiologiche e Biostatistiche Università di Modena e Reggio Emilia, Via Campi 287, I-41100 Modena (MO), Italy e-mail: gobba@unimo.it Fax: +39-059-428340IT
  2. 2.Fondazione Salvatore Maugeri, Pavia, ItalyIT
  3. 3.Dipartimento di Medicina Preventiva, Occupazionale e di Comunità, Università di Pavia, Pavia, ItalyIT
  4. 4.Sezione di Medicina Preventiva dei Lavoratori, Università di Pavia, Pavia, ItalyIT

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