Article Type

Original Study


Objective The aim of this work was to study some of the health disorders resulting from occupational exposure to mercury among workers in a fluorescent lamp factory. Background With the fast market growth of fluorescent lamps, the associated emissions and risk of mercury, which is an essential component in all types of fluorescent lamps, have received increasing public attention worldwide. Low doses of mercury exert toxicity on various human organs, including the central nervous, renal, respiratory, reproduction, immune, cardiovascular, skin, and motor systems. Methods A cross-sectional study was carried out on 138 workers in a fluorescent lamp factory and a nonoccupationally exposed group of 151 individuals. An environmental study of mercury and noise levels was carried out. Neurobehavioral tests, spirometric measurements, and audiometric examination were performed. Urinary mercury level was also measured for all participants. Results In the exposed group, the mean value of urinary mercury level (µg/g creatinine) was significantly increased among those who showed behavioral changes and hearing loss or had other manifestations related to mercury toxicity. With increasing duration of employment in years or with increasing urinary mercury level, the performance of neurobehavioral test battery and spirometric measurements deteriorated. Prominent symptoms among mercury-exposed workers included tremors, emotional lability, memory changes, neuromuscular changes, and performance deficits in tests of cognitive and/or motor functions. Conclusion The neurobehavioral test battery must be used to study subclinical central nervous system dysfunction because of mercury toxicity, especially to evaluate the severity of the effects of mercury in epidemiological studies. This study also reinforces the need for effective preventive programs at fluorescent lamp industry workplaces, especially in developing countries with the most unhygienic ill-ventilated conditions.