In 1940, the first report appeared describing a pulmonary disorder associated with occupational exposures in the cemented tungsten carbide industry. The disease, known as "hard metal disease," has subsequently been characterised in detail and comprises a wide range of clinical signs and symptoms. In this report, clinical findings in a group of 41 hard metal workers employed until recently are described. A high prevalence of respiratory symptoms was found. Thirteen workers (31%) had abnormal chest radiographs indicative of interstitial lung disease. Fifty per cent of these had been employed in hard metal manufacturing for less than 10 years. Abnormalities of pulmonary function were also frequent and included a restrictive pattern of impairment and decrease in diffusing capacity (27%). Associations were found between diffusing capacity, chest radiographic abnormalities and right ventricular ejection fraction at exercise indicating cardiopulmonary effects. The findings show the continuous need to control excessive occupational exposures to prevent hard metal disease, the history of which now enters its sixth decade.
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