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Int J Occup Environ Health. 2012 Apr-Jun;18(2):110-5. doi: 10.1179/1077352512Z.00000000012.

Exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) among welders in Sri Lanka.

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Department of Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.


Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a group of persistent organic pollutants with the ability to cause adverse impacts on human health and the environment. This study describes the indiscriminate use of PCB-contaminated transformer oil as a coolant in informal welding shops in Kalutara, Sri Lanka. Sixty-three welders, one each from a convenience sample of 63 welding workshops participated in the study. We administered a questionnaire and observed work practices. Sixty-two (98%) workplaces used transformer oil as the coolant in the welding equipment, 60 (95%) claiming that it was the only one available. Sixty-two (98%) did not use any protective measures when refilling coolant oil, while none of them safely disposed of the empty coolant oil containers. Only four (6%) were aware of the possible health effects of PCB-contaminated coolant oil. Health and safety measures in the work places studied were very poor. Coolant oil samples from a sub-sample of 30 welding workshops were tested for PCBs; 19 (63%) were positive. PCB-contaminated coolant oil is widely used by the welders in Kalutara without adequate precautions or safety measures.

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