Nasal cytology as a screening tool in formaldehyde-exposed workers
Workers in pathology and anatomy laboratories may be exposed to formaldehyde. An evaluation of the early effects of this substance is, therefore, paramount. This preliminary study was conducted to evaluate if nasal cytology could be used as a tool to detect changes in nasal mucosa in workers exposed to formaldehyde.
To assess whether nasal cytology was able to reveal any alteration of nasal mucosa in workers exposed to formaldehyde compared to unexposed subjects, and to ascertain whether a specific pattern of alterations correlated with years of exposure in order to evaluate long-term occupational exposure effects.
The study included a group of workers exposed to formaldehyde and a group of non-exposed workers. All subjects underwent clinical examination, followed by nasal cytology. Pathological indices from each rhinocytograms were compared between the two groups.
Nasal cytology revealed a chronic inflammatory non-allergic condition in the exposed group. Qualitative analysis of data distribution of neutrophils and mucous-secreting/ciliated cells ratio showed data clustering with a cut-off set at 15 years of exposure. The mean formaldehyde concentrations ranged from <0.04 to 0.15 parts per million (ppm). The maximum levels of formaldehyde concentrations ranged from 0.2 to 0.67 ppm.
Our data indicate that nasal cytology may be a promising tool for the health surveillance of workers exposed to formaldehyde and may also represent a useful research tool for the study of the health effects of other chemicals irritants for the upper airways.