A study was carried out to determine the health effects of rice husk dust in Malaysian rice millers. The study population consisted of 122 male Malay workers from three rice mills, with 42 controls of similar age, sex, ethnic group, and agricultural work background. Interviews using standardised questionnaires, physical examination, total and differential white cell counts, chest radiographs, and lung function tests were performed on each of the millers and the controls. Environmental dust monitoring was also carried out in the three rice mills. Clinical, haematological, and radiological findings suggest that a distinct clinical syndrome seems to be associated with exposure to rice husk dust. The manifestations of this "rice millers' syndrome" include acute and chronic irritant effects affecting the eyes, skin, and upper respiratory tract; allergic responses such as nasal catarrh, tightness of chest, asthma, and eosinophilia; and radiological opacities in the chest, probably representing early silicosis or extrinsic allergic alveolitis.
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