Body burden of aluminum in relation to central nervous system function among metal inert-gas welders

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OBJECTIVES: The relationship between elevated internal aluminum loads and central nervous system function was studied among aluminum welders, and the threshold level for adverse effect was defined. METHODS: For 65 aluminum welders and 25 current mild steel welders body burden was estimated, and the aluminum concentrations in serum (S-Al) and urine (U-Al) were analyzed with graphite furnace atomic absorption spectrometry with Zeeman background correction. Referents and low-exposure and high-exposure groups were defined according to an aggregated measure of aluminum body burden, the group median S-Al levels being 0.08, 0.14, and 0.46 micromol/l, respectively, and the corresponding values for U-Al being 0.4, 1.8, and 7.1 micromol/l. Central nervous system functions were assessed with a neuropsychological test battery, symptom and mood questionnaires, a visual and quantitative analysis of electroencephalography (EEG), and P3 event-related potentials with pitch and duration paradigms. RESULTS: Subjective symptoms showed exposure-related increases in fatigue, mild depression, and memory and concentration problems. Neuropsychological testing revealed a circumscribed effect of aluminum, mainly in tasks demanding complex attention and the processing of information in the working memory system and in the analysis and recall of abstract visual patterns. The visual EEG analysis revealed pathological findings only for aluminum welders. Mild, diffuse abnormalities were found in 17% of the low-exposure group and 27% of the high-exposure group, and mild to moderate epileptiform abnormalities at a frequency of 7% and 17%, respectively. CONCLUSIONS: Both objective neurophysiological and neuropsychological measures and subjective symptomatology indicated mild but unequivocal findings dose-dependently associated with increased aluminum body burden. The study indicates that the body burden threshold for adverse effect approximates an U-Al value of 4-6 micromol/l and an S-Al value of 0.25-0.35 micromol/l among aluminum welders.




Riihimäki, V., Hänninen, H., Akila, R., Kovala, T., Kuosma, E., Paakkulainen, H., … Engström, B. (2000). Body burden of aluminum in relation to central nervous system function among metal inert-gas welders. Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health, 26(2), 118–130.

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