Background: Plating and pickling processes are the most effective ways for increasing the strength of metal structures, and workers in these units are exposed to various contaminants, including acid mists. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of protective masks in decreasing the respiratory symptoms and the aerobic capacity of workers that are exposed sulfuric acid mist.

Methods: This interventional study was based on National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) standard 7903 in which silica gel tubes are used for sampling the air in plating and pickling units for eight hours. After the samples were acquired and prepared, they were analyzed by ion chromatography and were compared with the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) exposure limits. Respiratory symptoms were evaluated among two sets of test subjects, i.e., those who used NP305 masks in the workplace and those who did not use the mask.

Results: The results showed that the concentration of sulfuric acid mist in the plating units was greater than the exposure limits, and concentrations at this level can cause an increase in symptoms related to irritation of the airway and a slight decrease in respiratory capacity. In this study, smoking had no significant effect on the severity of pulmonary dysfunction.

Conclusion: The results indicated that the use of an NP305 mask is effective for decreasing symptoms resulting from exposure to sulfuric acid mist and improving respiratory capacity.

Key words: Plating, Sulfuric acid mist, Respiratory symptoms, NP305 mask  
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