Norwegians launch acrylamide health study

Gardermoen tunnel workers, others, to be subject of epidemiological study

Norway's National Institute of Occupational Health (Statens Arbeidsmiljøinstitutt) confirmed today that construction workers who have been exposed to the acrylamide compound Rhoca Gil (also marketed as Siprogel), an industrial sealant, are to be the subject of a comprehensive epidemiological study.

About 30 workers involved in a major tunnelling project linking Oslo to its new international airport at Gardermoen, 50km to the north of the capital, are to be examined for signs of acrylamide poisoning. Another 40 who have used Rhoca Gil in similar projects during the past 15 years will also be checked for symptoms of nerve and/or genetic damage.

The Gardermoen tunnel is currently the subject of more than 30 separate investigations, most of them relating to environmental or health and safety issues (ENDS Daily 9 December 1997). Many workers are known to have worked with Rhoca Gil without the necessary protective gear.

"We have no thoughts on what we might find", Helge Kjuus of the occupational health institute told the national newspaper Dagsavisen Arbeiderbladet. "It is hard to say whether the workers have been poisoned by acrylamide, which is why we are following up with a comprehensive group study at the neurological laboratory at Ullevål [hospital]."

Blood samples would be tested for acrylamide content, he said, and workers who had complained of symptoms would be checked against a control group with no history of exposure to acrylamide.

The study will also look at related acrylamide compounds such as polyacrylamide, found in a wide range of applications from moisturising creams and make-up to sewerage systems, and methylolacrylamide, which acrylamide monomer producers have blamed as the cause of toxicity in sealant leaks in Norway and Sweden rather than acrylamide.

"There has been a great deal of discussion as to what should be the minimum level of acrylamide exposure", Mr Kjuus said. "Perhaps this study will give us some answers."

He added: "Symptoms of acrylamide poisoning can disappear after a certain amount of time, For that reason we shall investigate the workers again in the autumn. Our work has already started, but the older group of workers will not be called in until after Easter. The results will be published early in 1999."

Follow Up:
National Institute of Occupational Health, +47 23 19 51 00.

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