Dust and Biological Monitoring During Vanadium Catalyst change-Out. Is it the Dust levels or the Hand-to Mouth Contact?

Document Type

Journal Article


Australian Institute of Environmental Health

Place of Publication

Hawthorn Vic, Australia


Computing, Health and Science


School of Exercise, Biomedical and Health Science




This article was originally published as

Cross, M. (2005). Dust and Biological Monitoring During a Vanadium Catalyst Change-out: Is it the Dust Levels or the Hand to Mouth Contact?.Environmental Health, 5(3), 32.

Original article available here


Biological monitoring was conducted on personnel performing the catalyst change-out task during a plant maintenance shutdown. One of the catalyst change-out crew returned a urinary vanadium level of 180 g/g creatinine. Dust levels monitored over the duration of the catalyst change-out for this individual were below the occupational exposure standards. This individual was a smoker, which might indicate that his route of exposure was ingestion caused by hand to mouth contact. This would explain why his urine level was high while the dust levels monitored for him throughout the catalyst removal were below the occupation exposure standard. The catalyst contains a vanadium salt complex, crystalline silica and diamataceous earth (Monsanto Company MSDS 2002). The most likely initial health effects for this combination of materials if respiratory protection is not worn would be acute respiratory irritation that might lead to lead to bronchitis. Crystalline silica a component of the catalyst has been classified as 'carcinogenic to humans' (International Agency for Research on Cancer [IARC] 1997) and therefore prolonged exposure to excessive catalyst dust might cause lung cancer. The effects of vanadium include respiratory irritation, skin irritation, eye irritation, gastrointestinal discomfort, nausea, and vomiting, hepatotoxicity, fatty change, anaemia, nervous depression, cardiac palpitations, nephrotoxicity. The classic disorder from vanadium exposure is a greenish discolouration of the tongue, which was not observed in this case. To prevent permanent ill health it is imperative that compliance with good personal hygiene and washing the hands and face prior to eating, drinking and smoking is strictly adhered to.