Welders at greater risk of DNA damage than smokers says new study

At a time when manufacturing sector is being given a push like never before, one of its key components — the welding industry — continues to pose serious occupational hazards to workers involved.

Published: 12th August 2018 10:58 AM  |   Last Updated: 12th August 2018 10:58 AM   |  A+A-

HYDERABAD: At a time when manufacturing sector is being given a push like never before, one of its key components — the welding industry — continues to pose serious occupational hazards to workers involved in the process. A recent study has found a statistically significant difference in the DNA damage levels between welders and the general population.

The study, titled Assessment of DNA Damage by Alkaline Comet Assay in Occupationally Exposed Welders of Hyderabad, by professors from Osmania University and Bhagwan Mahavir Medical Research Centre, found that the lack of awareness among people involved was one of the key factors contributing to the problem.

The study included 200 welders from Balanagar and 200 other people who had no history of exposure to welding fumes. The study found that if the mean DNA damage among the general population was 2.67, then among welders it was 5.83 — more than double. The DNA damage is caused primarily due to the presence of metals like aluminium, zinc and cadmium in welding fumes.

Apart from that, since their workstations are located in an open area, welders “were likely exposed to higher levels of traffic induced air pollution” than others in the study. In addition, the only protective gear used by workers were glasses to protect their eyes and gloves to cover their hands. Both workers and employers were unaware of the occupational and environmental hazards.

The fallout of the overexposure is evident. “Welding workers are more prone to impaired pulmonary function, chronic bronchitis, interstitial lung disease, asthma, lung cancer, eye burns,  short- and long-term injury to the skin, non-melanocytic skin cancer,” the researchers found out in the study. Smoking further aggravated the damage.

The DNA damage was as high as 6.16 among welders as opposed to 5.80 among non-smokers. Hence, the study urged industries to improve work efficiency by reducing the risk of welding fumes and by also identifying susceptible workers for further treatment.

What is DNA damage?
DNA damage is an alteration in the chemical structure of DNA, such as a break in a strand of DNA, a base missing from the backbone of DNA, or a chemically changed base. It can occur naturally or due to environmental factors. Though DNA repair happens subsequently, recovery is rarely 100%, say studies

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