Five hundred and sixty British coalminers with relatively high or relatively low exposures to oxides of nitrogen, based on measurements of concentrations of these gases at nine collieries over four years, and records of the men's places of work and colliery mining conditions over a total of eight years have been studied. Data on these men's respiratory symptoms and ventilatory capacity (FEV1), obtained as part of an epidemiological study of British coalminers, have been used to investigate possible adverse effects of exposure to oxides of nitrogen. Exposures to oxides of nitrogen were generally well below threshold limit values, though occasional peaks after shotfiring and during diesel locomotive use did exceed short term limits. No relationship was found between exposure and respiratory symptoms or decline in FEV1 nor was there any evidence of differences in symptoms of FEV1 between 44 pairs of men matched for age, dust exposure, smoking habit, coal rank, and type of work, but differing in respect of exposure to oxides of nitrogen. It has not been possible to detect any adverse effects on the health of this working population of the levels of nitrogen oxides that have occurred in British mines over the past decade. With the current levels of these gases, any long term effects on respiratory health are so small as to be undetectable in the presence of smoking and dust exposure.
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