A preliminary epidemiological study has been carried out to investigate a report that some men working in a factory manufacturing polyvinylchloride (PVC) had abnormally low values of the single breath diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide (TLCO). All monoxide (TLCO). All 265 present and past employees of the PVC factory were studied, together with 219 men from the workforce of a nearby foundry. Each man's TLCO was measured and a smoking history and detailed occupational history obtained. The distribution of standardised TLCO results from all persons examined was symmetrical and did not indicate an unexpectedly high proportion of men with having allowed for age, height, weight, and smoking habit, TLCO was associated with a history of working in the PVC factory before 1975 (when levels of vinylchloride monomers (VCM) were much higher than subsequently), and slightly associated with working in jobs where exposure to VCM was likely to have been highest. The men with low TLCO also tended to have smoked more heavily than controls. The relative importance of occupational factors and smoking in relation to low TLCO is not clear, but the results give some support to the hypothesis that work in the PVC factory before 1975 entailed exposure to a substance that caused impairment of lung function in a small number of men.
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