Ophthamologic effects of man-made mineral fibers

J Stokholm, M Norn, T Schneider
Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health 1982, 8 (3): 185-90
The effect of man-made mineral fibers on the human eye was investigated in a cross-sectional study of 15 workers exposed to Rockwool and a matched reference group of 15 people. Eye symptoms, changes in the cellular and mucous content of the conjunctival fluid, break-up time of the precorneal film, the number of microepithelial defects, and the number of dead and degenerated cells on the cornea and bulbar conjunctiva were used as measures of effect. The number of fibers accumulated in the eye and conventional dust sampling methods were used as measures of dose. A significantly higher frequency of eye symptoms related to work conditions (p less than 0.001) was found among exposed workers. Similarly, the number of microepithelial defects on the medial bulbar conjunctiva increased significantly (p = 0.009) after 4 d of exposure. Six exposed workers had a pathological increase in the neutrophil count of the conjunctival fluid after 4 d of exposure, and an increase was seen in only one worker after a weekend free from exposure. Significant correlation was found between microepithelial defects on the medial bulbar conjunctiva and measures of dose (p less than 0.01). The symptoms and cellular changes can be explained by the assumption that man-made mineral fibers have the same mechanical and reversible effect on the eye as on the skin. The described dose-effect relationship suggests that a much lower hygienic standard is needed for man-made mineral fibers than what has been recommended by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists.

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