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Year : 2018  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 12-18

Effect of prolonged and chronic occupational exposure to lead (Pb) poison metal on anterior segments of the eye

1 Department of Binocular Vision, Faculty of Optometry and Visual Sciences, Al-Neelain University, Khartoum, Sudan
2 Department of Binocular Vision, Faculty of Optometry and Visual Sciences, Al-Neelain University, Khartoum, Sudan; Department of Optometry, College of Applied Medical Sciences, Qassim University, Saudi Arabia

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Saif Hassan Alrasheed
Department of Binocular Vision, Faculty of Optometry and Visual Sciences, Alneelain University, Khartoum

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DOI: 10.4103/bijo.bijo_4_18

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Background: Lead is a naturally occurring toxic metal found in the earth's crust. Its widespread use has resulted in extensive environmental contamination, human exposure, and significant public health problems in many parts of the world. Aim: This study aimed to assess the effect of prolonged occupational lead exposure and the outer eye abnormalities among workers of military industrial factory as well as to assess the knowledge and practice of the workers toward lead exposure and hazards of lead poisoning. Materials and Methods: This is a comparative cross-sectional study of 100 workers selected randomly from the lead factory, and their ages ranged from 21 to 67 years, with a mean age of 39.1 ± 10.3 years. They were divided into two groups according to their duration of work (duration of exposure) group of short duration (<10 years) and group of long duration (more than 10 years). Investigations included vision and visual acuity (VA) measurements using Snellen tumbling E-chart and refraction using retinoscopy, and a cover test was conducted to find if phoria or tropia existed, as well as examinations of the external eye, anterior segment, and media using torchlight with low-power magnifier. Results: The finding revealed that 8% of the workers of long duration had VA < 6/12 after best correction in place compared to 1% among workers of short duration, and this difference was statistically significant (P < 0.001). About 66% of the long duration group presented with symptoms of irritated eye (foreign body sensation and tearing, itching and burning sensation, and periodic redness) compared to 18% among the group of short duration with a significant association (P = 0.038). Almost 36% of the workers of long duration had an ocular sign of conjunctival discoloration (gray-bluish conjunctiva) compared to 10% among workers of short duration with a significant association (P = 0.004). Anterior segment examination revealed that the majority (83%) of the workers in the group of long duration had conjunctival disorders of (pterygium, 77%, and allergic conjunctivitis, 6%) compared only to 25% among the group of short duration (pterygium, 23%, and allergic conjunctivitis, 2%), which was significantly associated (P = 0.01). The media examination showed that 14% of the long duration workers had cataract, 2% had corneal opacity, and 2% were pseudophakic, whereas surprisingly, none of the workers in the group of short duration had any of those media abnormalities, which was statistically significant (P = 0.04). With regard to knowledge of the workers about the effect of the lead poison on the eye, only 30% of the respondents were knew that the lead poison had effect on ocular health; therefore, the most of them not use the protection tools. Conclusion: Lead poison has a great effect on vision and eye health of the workers, its lead to decrease of vision result in development amblyopia, it also has influence on ocular media and causes severe allergic reaction Thus, all the workers in this field should wear the protection tools provided in the factory, and there is a critical need for examining their ocular health annually.

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