Objectives Occupational mineral dust exposure is a well-known risk factor for numerous respiratory and systemic diseases. Stone work with high quartz exposure in quarries and in consecutive industries is a common situation in Austria. The aim of the present study employing a longitudinal design was to assess the influence of occupational dust exposure on lung function results. Further, the impact of implementation of stricter limit values for work-related contact with Quartz dust on lung function was evaluated.
Method Anthropometric data (age, gender, BMI), smoking behaviour, and lung function parameters (FVC, FEV1, MEF50) of 7204 medical examinations of 3229 female and male workers during the years 2002 to 2010 were analysed following Austrian standards for occupational medicine and ERS guidelines. Analysis of data was performed using models of linear regression.
Results Lung function parameters decreased with duration of occupational dust exposure and smoking. Occupational quartz exposure negatively influenced lung function parameters (FVC -173.98 ml, FEV1 -127.94 ml, MEF50 -200.44 ml/s; all p < 0.001). Implementation of stricter Austrian occupational limit values for dust exposure resulted in a highly significant deceleration of annual respiratory decrease.
Conclusions The decrease of lung function is correlated with individual smoking habits and the duration of occupational dust exposure. Smoking cessation is especially recommended to workers exposed to Quartz dust to reduce the risk of increase of poor lung function. Adaptation of current limit values towards stricter limit values could decrease chronic occupational damage of the respiratory system.
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