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Radiographic abnormalities among construction workers exposed to quartz containing dust
  1. E Tjoe Nij1,
  2. A Burdorf2,
  3. J Parker3,
  4. M Attfield4,
  5. C van Duivenbooden5,
  6. D Heederik1
  1. 1Utrecht University, Division of Environmental and Occupational Health, Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences, Utrecht, Netherlands
  2. 2Erasmus University, Department of Public Health, Rotterdam, Netherlands
  3. 3West Virginia University, Department of Medicine, West Virginia, USA
  4. 4NIOSH, Division of Respiratory Disease Studies, West Virginia, USA
  5. 5Arbouw Foundation, Amsterdam, Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to:
 Mrs E Tjoe Nij, Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences, Division of Environmental and Occupational Health, Utrecht University, PO Box 80176, 3508 TD Utrecht, Netherlands; 


Background: Construction workers are exposed to quartz containing respirable dust, at levels that may cause fibrosis in the lungs. Studies so far have not established a dose-response relation for radiographic abnormalities for this occupational group.

Aims: To measure the extent of radiographic abnormalities among construction workers primarily exposed to quartz containing respirable dust.

Methods: A cross sectional study on radiographic abnormalities indicative of pneumoconiosis was conducted among 1339 construction workers mainly involved in grinding, (jack)-hammering, drilling, cutting, sawing, and polishing. Radiological abnormalities were determined by median results of the 1980 International Labour Organisation system of three certified “B” readers. Questionnaires were used for assessment of occupational history, presence of respiratory diseases, and symptoms and smoking habits.

Results: An abnormality of ILO profusion category 1/0 and greater was observed on 10.2% of the chest radiographs, and profusion category of 1/1 or greater on 2.9% of the radiographs. The average duration of exposure of this group was 19 years and the average age was 42. The predominant type of small opacities (irregularly shaped) is presumably indicative of mixed dust pneumoconiosis. The prevalence of early signs of nodular silicosis (small rounded opacities of category 1/0 or greater) was low (0.8%).

Conclusions: The study suggests an elevated risk of radiographic abnormalities among these workers with expected high exposure. An association between radiographic abnormalities and cumulative exposure to quartz containing dust from construction sites was observed, after correction for potentially confounding variables.

  • pneumoconiosis
  • quartz
  • construction industry

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