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The Effects of Repeated Exposure to Zinc- and Copper-Containing Welding Fumes on Healthy Volunteers

Krabbe, Julia, MD; Beilmann, Viktor; Gerhards, Benjamin, M.Eng; Markert, Agnieszka, MD; Thomas, Katharina, BSc; Kraus, Thomas, MD; Brand, Peter, PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: January 2019 - Volume 61 - Issue 1 - p 8–15
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000001455
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Objective: Recently, the proinflammatory effects of welding fumes containing zinc and copper have been demonstrated. In the present study, it was investigated if the inflammation persists under repeated exposure.

Methods: Fifteen healthy male subjects were exposed to 6 hours of exposure with zinc- and copper-containing welding fumes on 4 consecutive days under controlled conditions.

Results: Inflammatory marker serum levels showed significant increases compared with baseline either 6 or 24 hours after the first exposure and stayed elevated for all following exposures. In nasal secret samples only C-reactive protein levels were increased compared with baseline.

Conclusions: The current study demonstrates a persistent increase of systemic inflammatory markers indicating an elevated risk for welders chronically exposed to zinc- and copper-containing welding fumes. Topical inflammation of the upper airways did not occur.

Institute of Occupational, Social and Environmental Medicine, Medical Faculty (Dr Krabbe, Mr Beilmann, Dr Markert, Ms Thomas, Dr Kraus, Dr Brand) and ISF-Welding and Joining Institute (Mr Gerhards), Rhenish Westphalian Technical University, Aachen, Germany.

Address correspondence to: Julia Krabbe, MD, Institute of Occupational, Social and Environmental Medicine, Medical Faculty Aachen, RWTH Aachen, Pauwelsstraße 30, 52074 Aachen, Germany (jkrabbe@ukaachen.de).

Funding: This project was funded by the Institution for statutory accident insurance and prevention in the woodworking and metalworking industry (BGHM), Hannover, Germany, with an unrestricted grant to the University hospital RWTH Aachen.

Krabbe, Beilmann, Gerhards, Markert, Thomas, Kraus, and Brand have no relationships/conditions/circumstances that present potential conflict of interest.

The JOEM editorial board and planners have no financial interest related to this research.

Copyright © 2019 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine