Two outbreaks of liver toxicity in two factories

Chloroform poisoning has been reported in two factories in Singapore. Thirteen workers from a factory manufacturing electrical household goods were diagnosed with viral hepatitis between October 1973 and July 1974. They all had jaundice and all but two had anorexia, nausea and vomiting. The occupational nurse noticed that all the victims worked in the same part of the factory. An open container of a degreaser containing 99.5% chloroform and 0.5% ethanol was found in this area. The air concentration of chloroform was more than 400 ppm. Blood concentrations in nine workers, five with jaundice and four others were 1.0-2.9 mg/l (Phoon et al., 1975).

Another 11 cases of infectious hepatitis were diagnosed between May and August 1980, with a further five between November 1980 and October 1981 in workers at a factory making cassette recorders and digital clock radios. Again all the cases were from the same department where chloroform was applied to plastic casings. The plastic melted and the components became stuck together. On further investigation two more cases of hepatotoxicity were found. The chloroform concentration was measured on two occasions in December 1981. On the first it was 14.4-33.3 ppm and on the second 19.6-50.4 ppm. Blood samples taken in January were all negative for chloroform, but the company had reduced the number of workers using chloroform because of decreased production demands (Phoon et al., 1983).

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