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13924 (1-14)


Exposure to metals poses potential health risks, including insulin resistance (IR), to those exposed to them in excess. Limited studies have examined such risks in occupational workers, including welders, and these have yielded inconsistent results. Thus, we examined the associations between exposure to welding metals and IR in welders. We recruited 78 welders and 75 administrative staff from a shipyard located in northern Taiwan. Personal exposure to heavy metals, including chromium (Cr), manganese (Mn), iron (Fe), nickel (Ni), copper (Cu), zinc (Zn), and cadmium (Cd), was monitored through particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter of less than 2.5 μm (PM2.5) and urine analysis by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP–MS). After each participant fasted overnight, blood samples were collected and analyzed for IR assessment through updated homeostasis model assessment (HOMA2) modeling. Air sampling in the personal breathing zone was performed during a Monday shift prior to the blood and urine sample collection the following morning. The welders’ median personal Cr, Mn, Fe, Ni, Cu, and Zn airborne PM2.5 levels and urinary Cd levels were significantly higher than those of the administrative staff. After adjustment for covariates, logarithmic PM2.5-Mn, PM2.5-Fe, PM2.5-Cu, and PM2.5-Zn levels were positively correlated with logarithmic fasting plasma glucose (P-FGAC) levels (PM2.5-Mn: β = 0.0105, 95% C.I.: 0.0027–0.0183; PM2.5-Fe: β = 0.0127, 95% C.I.: 0.0027–0.0227; PM2.5-Cu: β = 0.0193, 95% C.I.: 0.0032–0.0355; PM2.5-Zn: β = 0.0132, 95% C.I.: 0.0005–0.0260). Logarithmic urinary Zn was positively correlated with logarithmic serum insulin and HOMA2-IR levels and negatively correlated with logarithmic HOMA2-insulin sensitivity (%S; βinsulin = 0.2171, 95% C.I.: 0.0025–0.4318; βIR = 0.2179, 95% C.I.: 0.0027–0.4330; β%S = −0.2180, 95% C.I.: −0.4334 to −0.0026). We observed that glucose homeostasis was disrupted by Mn, Fe, Cu, and Zn exposure through increasing P-FGAC and IR levels in shipyard welders.


© 2021 by the authors.

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0) which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Original Publication Citation

Su, T.-Y., Jeng, H. A., Hsu, Y.-T., Lai, C.-H., & Pan, C.-H. (2021). Impact of heavy metals in ambient air on insulin resistance of shipyard welders in Northern Taiwan. Sustainability, 13(24), 1-14, Article 13924.