Blood lead concentrations in exposed forecourt attendants and taxi drivers in parts of South Africa

J. O. Olowoyo*, U. A. Tshoni, A. S. Kobyana, G. N. Lion, L. L. Mugivhisa, L. Koski, S. K.T.S. Wärmländer, P. M. Roos*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: Leaded fuel was banned in South Africa in 2006, in order to improve human health and reduce environmental pollution. Lead (Pb) has been suggested to contribute to the development of neurodegenerative disorders, and the role of respiratory exposure to Pb from petrol fumes should not be neglected in this context. In addition to Pb, petrol contains various harmful chemicals including other neurotoxic metals and hydrocarbons. Objectives and Methods: Here, we investigated concentrations of Pb and other metals in blood from petrol station forecourt attendants (n = 38), taxi drivers (n = 21), and unexposed controls (n = 36). Taxi drivers and forecourt attendants were divided into three groups each, based on number of years worked. A questionnaire was designed to investigate the health status of the participants. Blood samples were collected by medical professionals and analyzed for metal concentrations by ICP-MS. Results: A positive correlation between number of years worked and Pb blood concentrations was found. The highest Pb concentration (60.2 µg/L) was observed in a forecourt attendant who had worked 11–20 years, and the average Pb concentration in this group (24.5 µg/L) was significantly (p < 0.05) higher than in forecourt attendants who had worked 2–5 years (10.4 µg/L). Some individuals had elevated concentrations of manganese, arsenic, cadmium, chromium and cobalt, yet not significantly elevated at the group level. The blood levels of arsenic appeared to be related to smoking. Mood swings, dizziness, headaches and tiredness were reported by the workers. Conclusion: Blood Pb concentrations in petrol station forecourt attendants and taxi drivers exposed to leaded petrol are elevated and correlate to exposure time. A health monitoring program should be erected for all individuals working in these industries, and preventive measures should be implemented to eliminate metal exposure from petrol.

Original languageEnglish
Article number127348
JournalJournal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024


  • Arsenic
  • Cadmium
  • Chromium
  • Cobalt
  • Lead
  • Manganese
  • Occupational exposure
  • Petrol


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