Occupational Asthma Reference

Douwes J, McLean D, Slater T, Travier N, Cheng S, Pearce N, Pine dust, atopy and lung function: a cross-sectional study in sawmill workers, Eur Respir J, 2006;28:791-798,


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Jeroen Douwes, Massey University, Wellington, NZ Jeroen Douwes

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An increased risk of asthma symptoms has previously been shown in 772 pine sawmill workers. The aim of the current study was to assess the association between dust exposure, lung function and atopy.

Subjects with (n = 59) and without (n = 167) asthma symptoms were randomly selected from the previous survey. Lung function and atopy were determined using spirometry and skin-prick tests, respectively. Inhalable dust levels were measured on the same day.

The geometric mean dust concentration was 0.52 mg·m-3. Exposure to dry but not to green dust was associated with asthma symptoms. Green dust was associated with atopic sensitisation, particularly against outdoor allergens; no association was found for dry dust. Forced vital capacity, forced expiratory volume in one second and peak expiratory flow were significantly lower in workers exposed to high levels of green dust (-350 mL, -260 mL and -860 mL·s-1, respectively) and dry dust (-230 mL, -190 mL and -850 mL·s-1, respectively). These associations were observed both in subjects with and without asthma symptoms. No associations with cross-shift changes in lung function were found.

Exposure to green pine sawdust may be a risk factor for atopy. Both green and dry dust were associated with obstructive as well as restrictive pulmonary effects.

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