Author(s): AlNeaimi YI, Gomes J, Lloyd OL
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Abstract Chronic exposure to Portland cement dust has been reported to lead to a greater prevalence of chronic respiratory symptoms and a reduction of ventilatory capacity. The seriousness of pulmonary function impairment and respiratory disease has not been consistently associated with the degree of exposure. Regular use of appropriate personal protective equipment, if available at the worksite, could protect cement workers from adverse respiratory health effects. For a variety of reasons, industrial workers in rapidly developing countries do not adequately protect themselves through personal protective equipment. This study explores the prevalence of chronic respiratory symptoms and ventilatory function among cement workers and the practice of use of personal protective equipment at work. An interviewer-administered questionnaire was used to collect information on sociodemographic characteristics, smoking profile and history of respiratory health among workers at a Portland cement plant (exposed) and workers occupationally unexposed to dust, fumes and gases (unexposed). Pulmonary function was assessed and pulmonary function impairment was calculated for the exposed and the unexposed workers. A higher percentage of the exposed workers reported recurrent and prolonged cough (30\%), phlegm (25\%), wheeze (8\%), dyspnoea (21\%), bronchitis (13\%), sinusitis (27\%), shortness of breath (8\%) and bronchial asthma (6\%). Among the unexposed, prevalences of these symptoms were 10, 5, 3, 5, 4, 11, 4 and 3\%, respectively. Ventilatory function (VC, FVC, FEV(1), FEV(1)/VC, FEV(1)/FVC and PEF) was significantly lower in the exposed workers compared with unexposed workers. These differences could not be explained by age, body mass index (BMI) or pack-years smoked. Ventilatory function impairment, as measured by FEV(1)/FVC, showed that 36\% of the exposed workers had some ventilatory function impairment compared with 10\% of those unexposed. Certain jobs with greater exposure to cement dust had lower ventilatory function compared with others among the exposed workers. It was concluded that adverse respiratory health effects (increased frequency of respiratory symptoms and decreased ventilatory function) observed among cement workers could not be explained by age, BMI and smoking, and were probably caused by exposure to cement dust.
This article was published in Occup Med (Lond)
and referenced in Journal of Pollution Effects & Control