Objectives To survey which respiratory symptoms are more prevalent in workers exposed to metalworking fluids (MWF) in machine shops compared with referents. Workers with common symptoms from the lower airways will be invited to clinical examinations.
Methods Workers in two large companies answered questionnaires on respiratory symptoms, atopy, working conditions and smoking. Most questions were used in a previous Swedish study of MWF exposed workers (Lillienberg et al, 2010). In each company there were workers exposed to MWF and referents from similar machine shops but not exposed to MWFs. There were 480 MWF exposed workers and 142 non-exposed referents answering the questionnaire. The response rate was 83.6%. 88.7% of the respondents were male. Prevalence of different symptoms and atopy were compared between exposed and referents by chi-square tests or Fisher’s exact test.
Results In general, there were higher prevalences of symptoms in exposed workers. The prevalence of dry cough was 37.7% in exposed workers vs. 27.5% in referents (p = 0.0006). Prevalence of often occurring self-reported symptoms such as cough, dyspnoea or wheeze when exposed to MWF was 6.2%, and occasional such symptoms was reported by 22.6% of MWF exposed respondents. There were no significant difference in atopy or never smokers between exposed and referents. Prevalences of current symptoms from eyes, nose and lower airways were higher in exposed workers than in referents and similar as in the previous Swedish study.
Conclusions Metal workers exposed to MWFs reported more respiratory and eye symptoms than blue collar referents from the same companies. In particular, dry cough was significantly more common. MWF exposed workers and referents with dry cough or asthma as well as exposed workers and referents without symptoms will be invited for clinical examinations.
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