Occup Environ Med 58:656-662 doi:10.1136/oem.58.10.656
  • Paper

Dust exposure and impairment of lung function at a small iron foundry in a rapidly developing country


OBJECTIVES A cross sectional prospective study was carried out among iron foundry workers (exposed) and soft drink bottling and supply company workers (unexposed) to assess their occupational exposure to ambient respiratory dust in their work environment and its effect on their lung function profile.

PARTICIPANTS Lung function was measured in 81 exposed and 113 unexposed workers. Personal respirable dust concentrations were measured for all the exposed and the unexposed workers. Information on respiratory signs and symptoms was also collected from the participants.

RESULTS Among the exposed workers, midexpiratory flow (FEF25-75), forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1), peak expiratory flow (PEF), FEV1/FVC, and FEV1/VC ratios were significantly lower whereas the vital capacity (VC) and forced vital capacity (FVC) were non-significantly higher. Job at the iron foundry was a significant predictor of lung function. Exposure to high concentration of respirable dust at the iron foundry was also a significant predictor. Workers working in high exposure areas (general works, furnace, continuous casting areas, and fabrication workshop) had lower lung function values than workers in medium and low exposure areas. Smoking did not enhance the effects of exposure to dust on lung function.

CONCLUSIONS Exposure to respirable dust was higher among the iron foundry workers; and among these, general, furnace, rolling mill, and fabrication workers had higher exposures to dust than did workers in continuous casting, the mechanical workshop, and the bottling plant. Job type and exposure to dust were significant predictors of lung function. Implementation of industrial hygiene and proper and efficient use of personal protection equipment while at work could help to protect the respiratory health of industrial workers.