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Byssinosis Prevalence and Flax Processing
  1. A. Bouhuys,
  2. F. Hartogensis,
  3. H. J. H. Korfage
  1. Laboratory of Clinical Physiology, Department of Medicine, University Hospital, Leiden, The Netherlands
  2. The Industrial Air Pollution Division, Research Institute for Public Health Engineering T.N.O., The Hague, The Netherlands


    Previous evidence suggested that byssinosis in flax workers is caused by the inhalation of dust of biologically retted flax. In the present study no cases of byssinosis were found among workers in a flax plant which produces yarn by chemical degumming instead of biological retting. The absence of byssinosis in this plant could not be attributed to differences in the quantities of dust developed as compared with the conventional retting procedure.

    These findings support the view that the agent in flax dust which causes symptoms of byssinosis originates during biological retting of flax and is absent from unretted flax. Chemical degumming of flax appears to be superior to biological retting procedures with respect to the health of the workers.

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    • Present address: Departments of Medicine and Physiology, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Ga, U.S.A.

    • * Supported in part by grants from the Organization for Health Research T.N.O., The Hague, and from the National Tuberculosis Association—American Thoracic Society.