Several cases of parkinsonism were found in a ferromanganese smelter after the ventilation system had broken down and had not been repaired for eight months in 1985. To determine the aetiology and prevalence of parkinsonism, 132 workers were submitted to thorough medical examination and estimated air concentrations of carbon monoxide and manganese at different worksites. Only six of eight workers performing electrode fixation or welding during 1985 developed parkinsonism. They were exposed for 30 minutes each day, seven days a week, to high concentrations of air manganese (greater than 28.8 mg/m3). There was a consistent trend between the index of exposure to manganese and signs and symptoms exhibited by extrapyramidal systems. After repair of the ventilation system, the air concentration of manganese during electrode fixation and welding decreased to less than 4.4 mg/m3; furthermore, no new cases of parkinsonism have been observed. Workers with parkinsonism recovered partially after removal from original worksites and treatment with levodopa. It is concluded that the outbreak resulted from exposure to high concentrations of manganese fumes through the breakdown of the ventilation system.
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