Objectives: The aim of this longitudinal study was to investigate the effects on respiratory health of talc dust, free of asbestiform fibers, at or below airborne concentrations of 2 mg/m3. Methods: Respiratory health and dust exposure of all workers with at least five years of employment at two talc producing facilities in France and Austria were surveyed between 1988 and 2003. Standard forced expiratory volumes and standard chest X-rays were obtained on repeated occasions and recorded using strict quality control procedures. Out of a target population of 430 subjects, 378 (88%) were examined at least twice. A quantitative exposure matrix was set up based on 4602 personal exposure measurements of the respirable dust and on qualitative descriptions of the processes and individual protection devices. Results: The mean duration of follow-up was 14.5 years with a mean estimated concentration during follow-up of 1.46 mg/m3. The prevalence of small radiological opacities and the lung function parameters were significantly related to the cumulative exposure at inclusion, but not to the exposure during the study period. Overall, the Forced Expiratory Volume in one second decreased by 66 mL per 100 years.mg/m3 which is less than the effect published for other types of mineral dusts. Conclusions: Although early exposure levels to talc as assessed at inclusion were associated with decreased lung function and an increased prevalence of small radiological opacities, there was no evidence of detrimental effects of the talc exposure, as assessed within the study period, on lung function and small radiological opacities.
- lung function
- occupational health
- respiratory health
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