Introduction Shipbuilding is one of the major industries in Ismailia city, Egypt. Many welders are employed to build the ship-body parts, bridges and other repair/maintenance work. The aim of present study was to assess the effects of duration of employment on lung function parameters.
Methods This cross sectional survey was conducted among 44 male welders in the Arab Contractors shipbuilding/repair facility in Ismailia. Subjects with known history of acute or chronic respiratory diseases, were excluded. Welders were divided (2 groups) according to their employment duration into short category [<5 years, n = 21 workers] and long category [≥5 years, n = 23 workers]. Workers were subjected to an interview questionnaire which included demographic data, work history, smoking habit and respiratory symptoms and spirometric measurements were done including predicted values of [FVC], [FEV1], [FEV1/FVC ratio], [FEF25-75%], and [PEFR], according to the American Thoracic Society criteria. Comparison of respiratory function paramters between groups were done using Students t-test and p-value < 0.05 was considered statistically significant. The study was performed in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki
Results Among all studied welding workers, the mean age was 28.2 ± (3.1) and mean duration of employment was 5.7 ± (3.2). Only 3 (6.8%) welders are smokers. The most common reported respiratory symptoms were sputum, cough and wheezing; (18.2%), (15.9%) and (11.4%) respectively. Among the studied pulmonary function parameters, all showed lower values in long duration group in comparison with the short group with statistically significant difference for parameters; FEV1 and FEV1/FVC (p = 0.025 and 0.006 respectively).
Conclusions The present study showed a trend toward dose-effect relationship between welding duration and decreased pulmonary function parameters. More action should be directed toward preventive measures. In spite that the sample was not large enough, this survey showed that welders are at risk for developing respiratory symptoms and decreased pulmonary function values.