Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 1992;18(2):101-104    pdf

doi:10.5271/sjweh.1605

Effect of occupational exposure to cobalt blue dyes on the thyroid volume and function of female plate painters.

by Prescott E, Netterstrom B, Faber J, Hegedus L, Suadicani P, Christensen JM

It has previously been shown that long-term oral exposure to cobalt can cause goiter and myxedema. The effect of industrial cobalt exposure on thyroid volume and function was determined for 61 female plate painters exposed to cobalt blue dyes in two Danish porcelain factories and 48 unexposed referents. Thyroid volume was determined by ultrasonography. The cobalt blue dyes were used in one of two forms, cobalt aluminate (insoluble) and cobalt-zinc silicate (semisoluble). Only the subjects exposed to semisoluble cobalt had a significantly increased urinary cobalt content (1.17 micrograms.mmol-1 versus 0.13 micrograms.mmol-1, P less than 0.0001). These subjects also had increased levels of serum thyroxine (T4) and free thyroxine (FT4I) (P = 0.0001 and 0.0029, respectively), unaltered serum thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), and marginally reduced 3,5,3'-triiodothyronine (T3), whereas thyroid volume tended to be lower (P = 0.14). The group exposed to insoluble cobalt did not differ significantly in any thyroid-related parameters. No correlation between urinary cobalt and FT4I or thyroid volume was found. The study demonstrates an effect of cobalt on thyroid hormone metabolism.