Miners and millers of talc ore, free from asbestos and silica, were examined for respiratory effects. A study of 116 subjects included the modified British Medical Research Council respiratory symptom questionnaire, simple spirometry, chest radiography, and limited examination of the chest. A one-year follow-up evaluation was performed on 103 subjects. Of the 12 subjects whose chest radiographs showed small round or irregular opacities (perfusion 1/0 or greater), five had never smoked cigarettes. Pulmonary function values at the time of the initial study were less than predicted and the rates of loss of FEV1 and FVC greater than expected. These differences were in part attributed to cigarette smoking but were greater than predicted from that source alone. There was evidence of an exposure effect after adjusting for cigarette smoking and we conclude that these workers have been affected by their exposures. No clear interaction between smoking and exposure could be identified. Populations such as this will need to be studied for longer periods to determine what current dust levels are safe.
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