OBJECTIVES: To study the load of selected organochlorine compounds in the blood of aluminium foundry workers who use hexachloroethane as a degassing agent for aluminium and to measure some possible effects on internal organs. METHODS: Plasma from nine male aluminium foundry workers with past experience of use of hexachloroethane and 18 controls (two controls per exposed case) matched for residence, sex, age, and socioeconomic status was analysed for hexachlorobenzene (HCB), (P-HCB), and octachlorostyrene (P-OCS) with low resolution gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Serum samples from the same subjects were analysed for standard kidney, pancreas, and liver function variables. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) with the triplets retained, a non-parametric test, and linear regression were used for the analysis. RESULTS: A fourfold increase of mean P-HCB was found among the exposed subjects compared with the controls (313.1 v 66.9 ng/g lipid; P < 0.01; (ANOVA model)). For P-OCS this difference was even larger (54.6 v 0.7 ng/g lipid; P < 0.01). Results were still significant (P < 0.05) with non-parametric testing. Within the exposed group there was a good correlation between the ln P-HCB (r = 0.80) and ln P-OCS (r = 0.91), respectively, with the cumulative number of years of exposure to hexachloroethane. No significant difference in kidney, pancreas, or liver function was found between the two groups. CONCLUSIONS: Aluminium degassing with hexachloroethane may increase the body burden of selected organochlorine compounds as reflected by HCB and OCS measurements. With the inherent limitations of this investigation no signs of subclinical organ toxicity were found.
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