As part of a general morbidity study of all civilian employees in the four Royal Naval Dockyards, the clinical, radiological and physiological effects of exposure to asbestos in 1200 men aged 50-59 years were studied in detail. The sample included all men on the Register of Asbestos Workers, one in three of those currently in occupations where intermittent exposure to asbestos may occur, and one in 30 of the remainder. The conclusions are mainly in accord with those of the comprehensive morbidity study of all the civilian dockyard workers, and show that smoking played a large part in increasing prevalence rates of radiographic, clinical, and physiological abnormalities in this population. A sub-group of 39 men, who were working as asbestos laggers or sprayers before 1957, was identified. These men showed much more extensive disease than any other sub-group, yet, even so, the smokers were worse than the non-smokers. Of these smokers, 48% had small opacities of category 1/1 or more, 76% reported that they coughed during the day and 53% had crepitations; forced expiratory volume and transfer factor were also markedly reduced in these 21 smokers. Although asbestos exposure had been intermittent for the majority of the population, the prevalences of pleural thickening, small opacities, current respiratory symptoms and crepitations were shown to be related to duration of exposure to asbestos.
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