Assessment of The Effect of Formaldehyde Exposure on The Liver in Mortuaty Workers in South Western Nigeria.
The general population especially the mortuary workers are constantly exposed to formaldehyde (HCHO) and its compounds. The short half-life of formaldehyde makes it rapidly metabolized and its effect purportedly considered negligible. The hepatotoxic effect of formaldehyde was assessed in 25 male mortuary attendants, mean age 48.04±2.20 (range 23-61) years, classified according to duration of occupational exposure. The mean duration of exposure was 13.56+1.5 (range 2-24) years. Twenty five unexposed individuals, mean age 47.12±1.97 (range 25-61) years were selected as control. The weights and heights of the exposed and un-exposed subjects were measured and the body mass index (BMI) computed. The activities of alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alkaline phosphatase (ALP) as well as the total plasma protein and plasma albumin were also determined in both groups. Total globulin level was computed from the difference between total protein and albumin level. Result showed that the body mass index was significantly lower in exposed subjects than in control (p<0.05). Total serum protein, albumin, and total globulin levels were also significantly reduced in mortuary workers than in un-exposed subjects (p<0.00, p<0.5, and p<0.00 respectively). There were no significant differences in the activities of the measured ALT, AST and ALP (p>0.05 respectively). Similarly, total bilirubin and its sub-fraction (conjugated and unconjugated) were not significantly different between mortuary workers and unexposed subjects (p>0.05) in all cases. These data suggest that among the most probable toxic effects of formaldehyde is impairment of the synthetic function of the liver in these mortuary workers. The significantly reduced total globulin level suggests that these workers may be at increased risk of suppressed humoral immunity.
Key words: Detoxification, formaldehyde exposure, hepatotoxicity, liver synthetic function, mortuary workers and xenobiotic transformation.