Fourteen subjects of whom 12 were cotton mill blow- or card-room workers were exposed in a plastic tent for periods of three or four hours to airborne mill dust either of unrestricted size distribution (total dust) or containing only particles of less than 7μ(fine dust).
A significant fall in indirect maximum breathing capacity followed exposure to either total or fine dust in most experiments. The response to total dust usually appeared a little larger than to fine but the concentration of fine particles in the unfiltered air was rather higher. The changes in the single-breath nitrogen clearance index and the inspiratory airways resistance were less constant, but the general pattern followed that of the ventilatory capacity.
It is concluded that the fine fraction (under 7μ) of cotton mill dust produces changes in respiratory function and may be alone responsible. The findings suggest a direct action by the dust on the smaller air passages and imply that to be completely effective dust suppression measures in cotton mills should remove fine dust.
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