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Exposure to indium-tin oxide may pose risk to manufacturing workers’ lungs: study

Periodic Table Indium

Photo: JacobH/iStockphoto

Washington – A chemical compound used to make high-tech products such as flat-panel displays, solar panels and energy-efficient windows may put workers at risk of developing a potentially fatal respiratory condition called indium lung disease, according to a recent study from NIOSH.

An effect of early-stage indium lung disease is fluid that fills the sacs of the lungs, the agency states. As the disease progresses, it may lead to lung scarring and emphysema.

For the study, researchers tracked 87 workers in industries in which the chemical compound indium-tin oxide is prevalent. Workers exposed to respirable indium for about two years or more experienced shortness of breath, lower lung function and higher levels of markers in their blood for lung damage. The amount of indium in workers’ blood correlated with the amount of ITO in the facilities at the time, researchers said.

“Further studies of other groups of ITO workers with longer and different types of work-related exposure to indium are important to confirm this study’s findings,” the researchers wrote. “Even so, the findings support precautionary efforts to reduce work-related exposure to respirable indium.”

The study was published in the July issue of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine and was highlighted in the September edition of NIOSH Research Rounds.

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