The purpose of this study was to determine whether grain handlers underwent work-related changes in their pulmonary function and, if so, to examine the dose-effect relationships with dust exposure. The pulmonary function of grain handlers was measured at the beginning and end of work shifts over a period of one week, during which their exposure to dust was measured daily. The results showed changes indicative of a within-day obstructive change, in addition to a small restrictive defect occurring over the course of a week. Civic outside labourers who were examined as a control group showed a similar within-week obstructive change without any associated restriction of lung volume. The data on the grain handlers were also used to examine the dose-effect relationships of dust exposure, both on baseline pulmonary function and on within-day changes in these measurements. The baseline flow rates of workers who did not wear a mask were found to vary inversely with their average exposure to respirable dust. In addition, the flow rates underwent a within-day decrease that varied directly with their corresponding exposure to respirable dust and was unrelated to mask wearing. The median of the slopes for this relationship indicated that 50% of the subjects had a decrease of at least 923 ml/s in the value of their Vmax50%VC for each 1 mg/m3 increase in the concentration of respirable dust. Non-respirable dust did not have a measurable effect either on the baseline or the within-day changes in pulmonary function. The acute changes were unaffected by age, duration of employment, or extent of smoking.
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