Objectives To determine pattern and predictors for respiratory illnesses and symptoms and lung function among textile workers in Karachi, Pakistan.
Methods This was a cross-sectional survey of 372 adult male textile workers from the spinning and weaving sections of 15 textile mills from Karachi. Data were collected from November to December 2009 through a structured, pretested questionnaire and spirometry.
Results Prevalence of byssinosis was 10.5%, chronic cough 7.5%, chronic phlegm 12.9%, wheeze with shortness of breath 22.3%, shortness of breath (grade 2) 21%, chest tightness ever 33.3%; whereas, a low prevalence of asthma (4%) was identified in this population. Eight per cent had obstructive, 8% restrictive and 2% mixed pattern of lung function abnormality. After controlling for potential confounders, work in the spinning section predicts frequent wheeze (AOR=2.0; 95% CI 1.1 to 3.5), wheeze with shortness of breath (AOR=1.8; 95% CI 1.0 to 3.4), and obstructive pattern on spirometry (AOR=2.5; 95% CI 1.0 to 6.2). Prolonged duration of work predicts breathlessness grade 1 (AOR=1.8; 95% CI 1.0 to 3.1) and grade 2 (AOR=2.7; 95% CI 1.3 to 5.4), as well as decrements in Forced Expiratory Volume in the first second (FEV1) and FEV1/Forced Vital Capacity ratio. Lack of education predicts frequent wheeze (AOR=2.0; 95% CI 1.2 to 3.3), and Sindhi ethnicity predicts chest tightness apart from during cold (AOR=2.7; 95% CI 1.1 to 6.6).
Conclusions This study highlights the burden of respiratory illnesses and symptoms, and a low prevalence of asthma among textile workers in Karachi. Work in the spinning section, lack of education, prolonged duration of work and Sindhi ethnicity, were identified as important risk factors.
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