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Penn study suggests professional welders at risk for loss of sense of smell
Date:10/11/2007

PHILADELPHIA Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have found that professional welders who work in enclosed spaces with poor ventilation may be at risk for loss of sense of smell. The study appears in Neurology.

This is the first study to clearly demonstrate that welders who work in confined spaces without adequate respiratory protection are at risk for damaging their sense of smell, says Richard Doty, PhD, Director, Smell & Taste Center, Professor, Department of Otorhinolaryngology, and senior study author. Although underappreciated, loss of smell function significantly alters quality of life. This important sense not only determines the flavors of foods and beverages, but serves as an early warning system for the detection of fire, dangerous fumes, leaking gas, spoiled foods, and polluted environments.

Using the University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test (UPSIT) a self-administered standardized test incorporating 40 scratch-and-sniff odors with multiple choice options to identify the odor the researchers quantitatively evaluated the olfactory function of 43 professional welders who worked in confined spaces on the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Bridge, and compared their test scores with those of matched normal controls.

Dr. Doty and colleagues found that the mean UPSIT scores of the welders were, on average, seven points lower than those of their matched controls (29.62 and 36.90). Thirty eight (88%) performed more poorly than their controls, although only 3 (7%) had a total loss of their sense of smell. The percentages of those with mild, moderate, or severe loss of the sense of smell were 30.2, 18.6, and 16.3. The researchers report that interestingly, of the 42 subjects who provided information regarding their sense of smell before being tested, more than half were unaware of a problem.

Blood tests were administered to test for blood levels of chemicals found in welding fumes
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Contact: Kate Olderman Tavella
kate.olderman@uphs.upenn.edu
215-349-8369
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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