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Background: Formaldehyde (FA) is a well-known chemical widely used in mortuaries in Nigeria for the preservation of human cadavers, yet little is known of the potential health risk associated with occupational exposure to formaldehyde in mortuaries. This study evaluated the potential health risk associated with occupational exposure to formaldehyde in mortuaries in Rivers State, Nigeria.
Methodology: The study was carried out in 7 public and 8 private mortuaries and the concentrations of formaldehyde to which the morticians are exposed were measured during the embalmment process. Modeling of health related risk was carried out in accordance with methods recommended by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA).
Results: The results showed that the lethal concentrations of formaldehyde in the mortuaries far exceeded the “No Significant Risk Levels” (LC50 = 3.3 ppm for public mortuaries; and 3.46 ppm for private mortuaries). Analysis showed that 77.2% of workers in the public mortuaries have high daily formaldehyde exposure index, while 88.24% of the workers in the private mortuaries have high daily formaldehyde exposure index. The difference between the formaldehyde daily exposure index and daily potential dose in public and private mortuaries was not statistically significant (p > 0.05). Computed hazard quotients for both public and private were 1.25 and 3.0 respectively (> 1). Computed cancer related risk values for public and private mortuaries were 1.5x10-3 and 1.9x10-3 respectively.
Conclusion: The study showed that embalmers in both the public and private mortuaries in Rivers State occupationally exposed to formaldehyde have significant risk of developing carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic related health problems. It is therefore, recommended that operators of mortuaries and Rivers State Government should provide FA monitoring device and continuous health education for workers.
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