To assess the risk of byssinosis in a cotton textile factory in Cameroon a preliminary study was conducted on a random sample of 125 men from production areas and 68 men from non-production areas. Symptoms were assessed by a questionnaire, which also included questions regarding sleep; peak expiratory flow rate (PEF) was measured with a miniature peak flow meter at the end of a working day and total dust concentrations were assessed by static and personal sampling with Casella dust samplers giving values of 6.4 +/- 2.6 mg/m3 (m +/- SD) in production areas and 1.7 +/- 0.7 mg/m3 in control areas. Exposed subjects had significantly more symptoms (particularly in smokers) and lower PEF values than controls (408 +/- 961/min v 468 +/- 701/min, p less than 0.001). Twenty three exposed subjects (18%) reported chest tightness on returning to work after the weekly break (compared with one control, p less than 0.01). Subjects with byssinosis had lower PEF values than those without chest tightness (356 +/- 501/min v 426 +/- 951/min, p less than 0.01), more chronic bronchitis (52% v 6%, p less than 0.001), they were more often smokers (61% v 31%, p less than 0.05), and came generally, though not exclusively, from the opening carding spinning department with the highest concentrations of total dust (8 +/- 2 mg/m3) and an estimated prevalence of byssinosis of 28%. There were no significant differences in sleep related symptoms between the exposed and controls, though the 23 subjects with byssinosis tended to report more snoring (48%), early morning headache (48%), and sleep improvement over the working week (44%) than all the other subjects (28%, 24%, and 24% respectively, p less than 0.1).
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