Why garage workers suffer from mental disorders - Beaking Kenya News

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Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Why garage workers suffer from mental disorders


Motor vehicle garage spray painters routinely complain of sore throat, headache and dizziness.

This is often attributed to their hectic work environment.

But researchers point at a different cause after analysing 110 garages in Embakasi.

They found that most artisans slowly poison themselves through exposure to benzene and toluene, the sweet-smelling highly volatile hydrocarbons and thinners added to paints.

Apart from the adverse respiratory health problems, over-exposure to the two chemicals can progressively lead to aplastic anaemia (the body stops producing enough new blood cells), leukaemia and multiple myeloma.

Exposure to toluene can be life-threatening or lead to chronic occupational asthma.

“These symptoms were also observed in the current study among the spray painters who spend many hours doing spray painting without personal protective equipment,” the study says.

Toluene has a sweet, distinct smell and is also present in many household cleansers, nail polish, petrol and glue in which it is abused through sniffing.

Kenyatta University researchers were concerned that most mechanics are unaware of the ill effects of the spray paints despite showing symptoms of poor health.

“This makes it more important to evaluate the levels of toluene released during spray painting to protect the workers in small-scale industries, where toluene is involved,” they say in the study published last year in the International Journal of Innovative Research and Advanced Studies.

The study evaluated the levels of the two compounds emitted in the breathing zones of spray painters in informal auto garages.

The researchers randomly sampled 29 workers from 110 spray painters in Embakasi.

Exposure was measured by collecting benzene and toluene compounds through a passive colour dosimeter tubes placed near the breathing zone of spray painters.

The average amounts of benzene and toluene were 73.46 ppm (parts per million) and 61.22 ppm respectively, against WHO’s recommended maximum of 0.5ppm for benzene and 50ppm for toluene.

“In these small-scale industries, workers are exposed to a myriad of other chemicals with little or no proper protection which make them vulnerable to illnesses associated with the exposures,” the authors say.

Their study was titled 'Evaluation of Benzene and Toluene Levels Released into the Breathing Zone of Spray Painters Working in Small Scale Informal Auto-Garage, in Embakasi, Nairobi.'

They recommended that the study guide the policy on benzene and toluene exposure control and awareness creation among the auto spray painters.

The researchers are Peterson Warutere and Agnes Mwatu of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at KU.

The others are Margaret Keraka of the School of Public Health and Applied Human Sciences, and Ngethe Muhoho of the Department of Pathology.

Occupational exposure to benzene and toluene in spray painting occurs specifically in operations that involve manual handling.

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