The prevalence of byssinosis and of chronic bronchitis was studied in a questionnaire investigation among workers in bale opening areas, carding rooms, and spinning rooms in five Swedish cotton mills. Airborne dust and Gram-negative bacteria was measured. Nineteen per cent of the interviewed workers reported symptoms of light byssinosis (grade 1/2). The prevalence of symptoms was not related to the duration of employment, and cases of byssinosis were found among people who had worked in cotton mills for only a few years. A significantly higher proportion of male than female workers reported symptoms. No difference in the extent of byssinosis was found between smokers and non-smokers, but the prevalence was significantly higher among those workers who had ceased smoking. The prevalence of byssinosis was related to the number of airborne viable Gram-negative bacteria as well as to the dust level in the different mills.
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