OBJECTIVES--To document the prevalence of work related ocular (eyeWRI) and nasal (noseWRI) irritation in workers in spinning mills of cotton and synthetic textile fibres and to relate the prevalence of symptoms to atopy, byssinotic symptoms, work history, and measured dust concentrations in the personal breathing zone and work area. METHODS--A cross sectional study of 1048 cotton workers and 404 synthetic fibre workers was performed. A respiratory questionnaire was given to 1452 workers (95% of the total available population). Atopy was judged by skin prick tests to three common allergens. Work area cotton dust sampling (WAdust) was carried out according to EH25 guidelines in nine of the 11 spinning mills included in the study. Personal breathing zone dust concentrations were assessed with the IOM sampler to derive total dust exposure (PTdust) and a concentration calculated after the removal of fly (Pless). RESULTS--3.7% of all operatives complained of symptoms of byssinosis, 253 (17.5%) complained of eyeWRI and 165 (11%) of noseWRI. These symptoms did not relate to atopy or byssinosis, or correlate univariately with any measure of cotton dust exposure (noseWRI v WAdust r = 0.153, PTdust r = 0.118, eyeWRI v WAdust r = 0.029, PTdust r = 0.052). Both of these symptoms on logistic regression analysis were related to being of white origin (P < 0.001), female sex (P < 0.001), and younger age (P < 0.001). With regression analysis, there was a negative relation between dust concentration and prevalence of symptoms. CONCLUSION--Work related ocular and nasal irritation are the most common symptoms complained of by cotton textile workers. There was no relation between these symptoms and atopy, byssinosis, or dust concentration. It is likely that they relate to as yet unidentified agents unrelated to concentration of cotton dust.
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