OBJECTIVES--31 railway workers and 32 lumberjacks were examined to compare the dose-response relation between the exposure to two types of hand-arm vibration and the sensory disturbances in peripheral nerves as evaluated by the vibration perception thresholds (VPTs). METHODS--Clinical examinations were carried out that included measurements of the VPTs, and electroneuromyography (ENMG), and an inquiry to confirm the use of vibrating tools. Diseases of the central nervous system and neuropathies were checked by inquiry and a clinical examination, diabetes was excluded by a blood sample analysis, and the subjects with carpal tunnel syndrome confirmed with ENMG were excluded from the study. RESULTS--Lifetime use of hand held tamping machines (railway workers) and chain saws (lumberjacks) had a significant correlation with the VPTs at frequencies from 32 to 500 Hz. The increase of the VPTs (250 Hz) in relation to use of vibrating tools was 1.8-fold higher on average in the whole group and 2.3-fold higher in the young (< 45) railway workers who had used hand held tamping machines, than in the corresponding groups of lumberjacks, who had used chain saws, whereas the frequency weighted acceleration of vibration in tamping machines was fourfold. CONCLUSION--There was a significant dose-response relation between the exposure to hand-arm vibration and the VPTs. The VPTs as a function of the frequency weighted acceleration of vibration and the exposure to vibration gave promising results for assessment of the risk of damage to sensory nerves induced by vibration.
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