Occupational exposure to metals and other elements in the tractor production

PLoS One. 2018 Dec 14;13(12):e0208932. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0208932. eCollection 2018.


Background: Exposure to metals via air sampling in workplace has been extensively studied; however, the magnitude of individual exposure in various occupational groups may vary dramatically. The aim of this cross-sectional study was to ascertain exposure to selected metals from metal fumes in a series of typical workplaces of contemporary tractor production.

Methods: Ninety-eight (median age 41 (interquartile range (IQR) 23) years, all men) workers from Minsk Tractor Plant were categorized into four groups, including assembly shop workers (group 1); thermal shop staff (group 2); steelmakers (group 3) and welders (group 4). Hair samples (0.25 g) of each worker were tested for Ca, Mg, P, Cu, Fe, Zn, Al, Mn, Cr, Ni, Pb and Cd using atomic emission spectrophotometry. We then tested between-group differences of log-transformed element concentrations using analysis of variance, followed by logistic regression to determine the odds ratio (OR) with its 95% confidence interval (CI) of high exposure for four selected groups.

Results: The median work duration in workers was 6 (IQR 15) years, more in group 1 (10 (IQR 23)). Eight out of 12 included elements yielded significant between-group differences, including Mg, P, Fe, Zn, Mn, Cr, Ni and Cd. Steelmakers had higher Mn hair concentrations (F-ratio 10.41, p<0.001); whereas Fe (F-ratio 12.48, p<0.001), P (F-ratio 12.68, p<0.001), Zn (F-ratio 6.07, p<0.001) and Cr (F-ratio 20.54, p<0.001) were higher in welders. OR of high exposure to Mg in group 3 was 10.00 (95% CI 1.14-87.52), whereas the OR of high exposure to P in group 4 was 18.64 (95% CI 2.22-156.85) compared to group 1.

Conclusions: In the modern full-cycle tractor production, welders may have higher exposure to Fe, P, Zn and Cr, as opposed to steelmakers with higher Mn hair concentrations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Hair / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metals, Heavy / toxicity*
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Plants / adverse effects
  • Republic of Belarus
  • Spectrophotometry, Atomic
  • Trace Elements / isolation & purification
  • Trace Elements / toxicity*


  • Metals, Heavy
  • Trace Elements

Grants and funding

This study was supported by grant from "The Tomsk State University competitiveness programme”. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.