Characterisation of workers' exposure in a Russian nickel refinery
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In support of a feasibility study of reproductive and developmental health among females employed in the Monchegorsk (Russia) nickel refinery, personal exposure and biological monitoring assessments were conducted. The inhalable aerosol fraction was measured and characterised by chemical speciation and particle-size distribution measurements. Unexpected findings were that: (i), pyrometallurgical working environments had significant levels of water-soluble nickel; (ii), significant exposure to cobalt occurred for the nickel workers; (iii), particles of size corresponding to the thoracic and respirable fractions appeared to be virtually absent in most of the areas surveyed. The water-soluble fraction is judged to be primarily responsible for the observed urinary nickel and cobalt concentrations. It is concluded relative to current international occupational-exposure limits for nickel in air, and because of the high nickel concentrations observed in urine, that the Monchegorsk nickel workers are heavily exposed. The implication of this finding for follow-up epidemiological work is alluded to.
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