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Urinary excretion of platinum from South African precious metals refinery workers


Background Urinary platinum (Pt) excretion is a reliable biomarker for occupational Pt exposure and has been previously reported for precious metals refinery workers in Europe but not for South Africa, the world’s largest producer of Pt.

Objective This study aimed to quantify the urinary Pt excretion of South African precious metals refinery workers.

Methods Spot urine samples were collected from 40 workers (directly and indirectly exposed to Pt) at two South African precious metals refineries on three consecutive mornings prior to their shifts. Urine samples were analysed for Pt using inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry and were corrected for creatinine content.

Results The urinary Pt excretion of workers did not differ significantly between sampling days. Urinary Pt excretions ranged from <0.1 to 3.0 µg Pt/g creatinine with a geometric mean of 0.21 µg Pt/g creatinine (95% CI 0.17 to 0.26 µg Pt/g creatinine). The work area (P=0.0006; η2=0.567) and the number of years workers were employed at the refineries (P=0.003; η2=0.261) influenced their urinary Pt excretion according to effect size analyses. Directly exposed workers had significantly higher urinary Pt excretion compared with indirectly exposed workers (P=0.007).

Conclusion The urinary Pt excretion of South African precious metals refinery workers reported in this study is comparable with that of seven other studies conducted in precious metals refineries and automotive catalyst plants in Europe. The Pt body burden of workers is predominantly determined by their work area, years of employment in the refineries and whether they are directly or indirectly exposed to Pt.

  • biomonitoring
  • exposure assessment
  • body burden
  • platinum group metals

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