Occupational exposure to airborne contaminants during offshore oil drilling
The aim was to study exposure to airborne contaminants in oil drillers during ordinary work. Personal samples were collected among 65 drill floor workers on four stationary and six moveable rigs in the Norwegian offshore sector. Air concentrations of drilling mud were determined based on measurements of the non-volatile mud components Ca and Fe. The median air concentration of mud was 140 μg m−3. Median air concentrations of oil mist (180 μg m−3), oil vapour (14 mg m−3) and organic carbon (46 μg m−3) were also measured. All contaminants were detected in all work areas (drill floor, shaker area, mud pits, pump room, other areas). The highest air concentrations were measured in the shaker area, but the differences in air concentrations between working areas were moderate. Oil mist and oil vapour concentrations were statistically higher on moveable rigs than on stationary rigs, but after adjusting for differences in mud temperature the differences between rig types were no longer of statistical significance. Statistically significant positive associations were found between mud temperature and the concentrations of oil mist (Spearman's R = 0.46) and oil vapour (0.39), and between viscosity of base oil and oil mist concentrations. Use of pressure washers was associated with higher air concentrations of mud. A series of 18 parallel stationary samples showed a high and statistically significant association between concentrations of organic carbon and oil mist (r = 0.98). This study shows that workers are exposed to airborne non-volatilized mud components. Air concentrations of volatile mud components like oil mist and oil vapour were low, but were present in all the studied working areas.