Health complaints after a malodorous chemical explosion: a longitudinal study
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Background: Physical and psychological symptoms are prevalent in populations recently affected by industrial accidents. Follow-up studies of human health effects are scarce, and as most of them focus on residents, little is known about the long-term health effects among workers exposed to malodorous emissions following a chemical explosion. Aims: To assess whether subjective health complaints (SHC) among workers declined over a 4-year period after an oil tank explosion that emitted malodorous sulphurous compounds. Methods: A longitudinal survey from 2008 (18 months after the explosion) to 2012, performed using the SHC inventory. Questionnaire data were analysed using a linear mixed effects model. Results: There was a decrease in SHCs among the exposed workers, but they still had significantly more subjective neurological symptoms (P < 0.01) compared with controls, adjusted for gender, age, smoking habits, educational level and proximity to the explosion. Conclusions: Although there was a downward trend in SHCs among exposed workers in the follow-up period, they reported more subjective neurological complaints than controls. Symptoms may be mediated by perceived pollution and health risk perception, and adaptation or anxiety may cause a chronic effect, manifested by a dysfunctional and persistent neuropsychological response.