Since exposure to Volatile Organic Vapors (Benzene, Toluene and Xylene - BTX) produces serious short- and long-term neurotoxic and hematological effects in individuals, this work focuses on reducing both the incidence and prevalence of occupational diseases associated with exposure to organic vapors by implementing prevention programs.

Hygienic measurements are made periodically, the results of which are essential for establishing guidelines for the different controls, thus eliminating or substantially reducing exposure. The NIOSH 1501 and OSHA 7 methods for measuring exposure to BTX were employed for collecting information at the worksites and its subsequent analysis. This study was conducted at different petroleum production fields in the Llanos Orientales basin in Colombia, based on a prior characterization of the crude (semi-heavy crude oil) and for certain positions determined according to the degree of exposure.

The comparison between permissible limits, the range of exposure and the periodic medical examinations of those exposed determine the measures to be taken to reduce the risk to employees. Personnel exposed to BTX organic vapors in the production areas, laboratories and crude loading racks are classified in a minimum exposure range.

During the 4 years of studies there have been no cases of incidence or prevalence of associated occupational disease, nor have case studies been detected in the annual occupational medical exams.

Implementing engineering measures in the workplaces has helped to maintain control of this danger and lessen the likelihood of worker exposure. This shows that the prior engineering designs and implementation of procedures supported with hygienic measurements are the best prevention tools for a major risk in oil production.

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