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Occupational chronic lead poisoning in Rosario, Argentina, 1990-1998

2 octubre, 2004

Piola JC, Prada DB


Lead poisoning is the most frequent toxic occupational disease in our region. This work presents the data of 139 patients with occupational chronic lead poisoning that were attended by us between 1990 and 1998 (54% of total chronic poisoning cases in this period).

Profile of these patients are: male 99.28 %, age 20-49 years 78.4% (30-39 years 33.8%; 20-29 years 22.3%;40-49 years 22.3%).

The frisa consultation we attend to of each incident is more frequent during the months of January, February, March, May, June and November than in others months. Until august 1998, the annual average was 15 patients. (1990=14 ; 1991=20 ; 1992=26 ; 1993=29 ; 1994=18 ; 1995=15 ; 1996=11 ; 1997=4 ; 1998=2). These patients were : asintomatic (only biomarkes changes) in 38.1% of patients, light sintomatology in 45.3% patients, moderate sintomatology in 15.8% and severe sintomatology in 0.72%. More frecuent sintomatology are varia in 77.9% , only neurologic in 15.1% and only gastroenterologic in 7%.

Cautionary measures taken in the workplace like not eating or smoking are uncommon. The more common occupation hazard is acid-lead battery fabrication. Others are smelter workers, painters and lead welders or others who handle lead. The best biomarker is lead in blood, in equilibrium conditions as chronic exposure.

We think that the reason for a decrease in occupational chronic lead poissoning that we see in our region is due to the crisis in acid-lead battery industry ( presently, batteries are imported) and modifications in the handling of this patients by ART (Risk Work Ensuring Companies) more than a change in attitude with respect to prevention of intoxication.