A survey of 255 workers in four cottonseed crushing mills included a respiratory health questionnaire, allergy skin testing, and measurements of lung function over the Monday working shift. Atopy was defined as having two or more positive weal reactions to common inhalant antigens. Categories of exposure to dust were based on the stage of milling, and one category contained workers with continuous exposure to cotton dust derived from linters, the cotton fibres adherent to cottonseed. Atopy and exposure to dust were found to have significant interaction: large mean declines in FEV1 and FEF 25-75 occurred only in the workers exposed to linter dust who were also atopic. Skin-testing surveys in cotton textile mills have concentrated on specific cotton antigen reactivity and its first-order relations to symptoms. Our results indicate a need to identify atopic workers, and to search for interactions between atopy and other variables that may influence acute changes in expiratory flow rates.
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