Sodium hydroxide (NaOH) is well known for its corrosive properties and its ability to generate heat on contact with water. The respiratory effects of industrial exposure to NaOH have, however, never been reported. A 63 year old man worked daily for 20 years cleaning large industrial jam containers by boiling lye (NaOH) solution without using respiratory protective equipment. Physical examination, chest x ray film, pulmonary function tests, and arterial blood gases were all compatible with severe obstructive airway disease with significant air trapping. It is probable that this massive and prolonged occupational exposure to the corrosive effect of NaOH mists induced irritation and burns to the respiratory system, eventually leading to severe obstructive airway disease.
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