OBJECTIVES--To determine the relative effects of cigarette smoking and mineral dust exposure on numbers and activity of circulating phagocytes, plasma nutritional antioxidant state, and pulmonary function in South African gold miners. METHODS--Pulmonary function was assessed spirometrically, whereas reactive oxidant generation by circulating phagocytes, and plasma concentrations of the nutritional antioxidative nutrients vitamin C and vitamin E and beta carotene were measured with chemiluminescence, spectrophotometry, or high performance liquid chromatography respectively. RESULTS--Cigarette smoking, but not mineral dust exposure, was associated with increased numbers and pro-oxidative activity of circulating neutrophils and monocytes, decreased plasma concentrations of vitamin C, and pulmonary dysfunction. DISCUSSION--In this study group occupational exposure to mineral dust has not been found to promote increases in the numbers or reactivity of circulating phagocytes or to be a significant cause of pulmonary dysfunction, the changes found being due primarily to cigarette smoking.
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