Last update:


Arch Hellen Med, 29(1), January-February 2012, 70-76


The effects of occupational heavy metal exposure on morbidity and mortality

P. Kouroutou,1 S. Kales,2 K. Hadjistavrou,1 A. Linos1,3
1Department of Hygiene, Epidemiology and Medical Statistics, Medical School, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens,
2Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA,
3Institute of Preventive Medicine, Environmental and Occupational Health, "Prolepsis", Athens, Greece

Heavy metals are widely used in industry and are strongly related not only to severe environmental pollution, but also to health problems caused to industry workers. The exposure of industry workers is typically higher than that of the general population, since workers are close to the source of toxic emissions, and the toxic agents come into contact with the workers in various ways and at different rates, before they are expelled into the environment. Great emphasis is placed in the international literature on the impact of heavy metals on people's health, especially on those who work in fields concerned with such metals, including scientific studies in which the effects of heavy metal exposure on the morbidity and mortality of workers are analyzed in depth. Accordingly, there is documentation of correlation between industrial exposure to harmful agents and mortality from certain types of diseases. Apart from mortality, chronic health problems and acute incidents are also documented in connection with heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, nickel, copper, manganese, berillium, cadmium, aluminum and chromium. The most important types of exposure-related disease are cancer (mostly cancer of the respiratory and digestive system, but also brain cancer), severe blood disorders and disorders of the immune system, respiratory diseases and neurological disorders, and less frequently there is documentation of dermatological effects and systemic diseases.

Key words: Cancer, Chromium, Heavy metals, Mortality, Occupational exposure.

© Archives of Hellenic Medicine