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BACKGROUND: Occupational exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from welding is considered a risk factor for cataract and other eye disorders, but the evidence for such effects is limited. AIMS: To identify any increased risk of developing cataract from metal arc welding and to investigate the associated risk factors. METHODS: A cross-sectional study was carried out on male welders and control subjects (not engaged in welding) from five fabrication and construction companies in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. A questionnaire was used to gather information regarding their demography and lifestyle, along with their occupational, medical and ocular histories. Cataract was identified by external examination and ophthalmoscopy. RESULTS: A total of 117 welders and 105 controls participated. There was no statistically significant increase in the risk of cataract in welders after adjusting for age, smoking status, family history of cataract, outdoor work and history of eye injury. There was a strong association between work-related eye-injury history and cataract. Only 60% of welders were wearing eye protection when the eye injury occurred. The majority of the eye injuries (72%) occurred during welding and grinding operations. CONCLUSIONS: The findings of this study suggest that the main occupational risk factor for cataract was a history of eye injuries. The role of UV (or optical) radiation appeared to be less important than impact eye injuries associated with welding-allied processes. It is therefore important that welders are provided with different types of eye protection and are informed about which type should be used, and when, so that they can be protected against optical and impact injuries.

Original publication




Journal article


Occup Med (Lond)

Publication Date





331 - 336


Adult, Case-Control Studies, Cataract, Cross-Sectional Studies, Eye Injuries, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Nigeria, Occupational Diseases, Risk Factors, Ultraviolet Rays, Welding, Young Adult