Anicteric hepatoxicity: a potential health risk of occupational exposures in Nigerian petroleum oil refining and distribution industry
Background Literature abounds linking one’s job to certain unpalatable health outcomes. Since exposures to hazardous conditions in industrial environments often results in sundry health effects among workers, we embarked on this study to investigate the hepatic health effects of occupational activities in the petroleum refining and distribution industry.
Method Biochemical markers of liver functions were assayed in plasma, using Reflotron dry chemistry spectrophotometric system. The study was conducted on randomly selected workers of Port Harcourt Refining Company (PHRC) and Pipelines and Petroleum Product Marketing Company (PPMC) both in Alesa-Eleme near Port Harcourt, Nigeria, as well as non-oil work civil servants serving as control subjects.
Result and conclusion Results showed that, bilirubin ranged 0.3-1.6 mg/dl with a mean of 0.66±0.20mg/dl among the oil workers as against 0.5-1.00mg/dl with a mean of 0.58±0.13mg/dl in non-oil workers, Alkaline phosphatase ranged 50.00-296.00u/l (mean: 126.21±39.49u/l) in oil workers as against 40.20-111u/l (mean: 66.83±18.54u/l) for non-oil workers, Aspartic transaminases (AST) ranged 5.80-140.20u/l (mean: 21.81±11.49u/l) in oil workers against 18.00-44.00u/l (mean: 26.89±6.99u/l) for non-oil workers, while Alanine transaminases (ALT) ranged 4.90-86.00u/l (mean: 22.14±11.28u/l) in oil workers as against 10.00-86.60u/l (mean: 22.30±10.22u/l) for the non-oil workers. A close study of the results revealed that although the mean values for all the studied parameters were still within the parametric reference ranges, however, relative to the referents, there were significant increases (P<0.05) in plasma bilirubin (though anicteric) and alkaline phosphatase that was not matched with a corresponding increase in the plasma transaminases, suggesting a possibility that toxic anicteric hepatoxicity is part of the potential health effects of sundry exposures in the Nigeria petroleum oil refining and distribution industry. Gender differentiation data showed that though the mean values for the parameters were higher in males than females, the increases were not significant in most cases (P>0.05), whereas data for age and exposure period classifications revealed that irrespective of the age of the worker, the effects are likely to start after the first five years, manifesting fully after the first decade of occupational exposures. Thus, an update of industrial/occupational health measures is necessary for a safer and healthier work environment.