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Respiratory and skin effects of exposure to wood dust from the rubber tree Hevea brasiliensis
  1. P Sripaiboonkij1,
  2. W Phanprasit2,
  3. M S Jaakkola1,3
  1. 1
    Institute of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  2. 2
    Department of Occupational Health and Safety, Faculty of Public Health, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand
  3. 3
    Respiratory Medicine Unit, Department of Internal Medicine, Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
  1. Professor Maritta S Jaakkola, Respiratory Medicine Unit, Department of Internal Medicine, Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Oulu, PO Box 5000 (Aapistie 5A), FIN-90014 University of Oulu, Finland; maritta.jaakkola{at}


Objectives: Potential health effects related to wood dust from the rubber tree, which produces natural rubber latex, have not been previously investigated. The main aim of this study was to investigate the relations of rubber tree dust exposure to respiratory and skin symptoms, asthma and lung function.

Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted among 103 workers (response rate 89%) in a rubber tree furniture factory and 76 office workers (73%) in four factories in Thailand. All participants answered a questionnaire and performed spirometry. Inhalable dust levels were measured in different work areas.

Results: Factory workers showed increased risk of wheezing, nasal symptoms and asthma compared to office workers. There was a dose-dependent increase in wheeze and skin symptoms in relation to dust level. Significantly increased risks of nasal symptoms (adj OR 3.67, 95% CI 1.45 to 9.28) and asthma (8.41, 1.06 to 66.60) were detected in the low exposure category. Workers exposed to ethyl cyanoacrylate glue had significantly increased risk of cough, breathlessness and nasal symptoms. There was dose-dependent reduction in spirometric lung function with wood dust level.

Conclusions: This study provides new evidence that workers exposed to wood dust from the rubber tree experience increased risk of nasal symptoms, wheeze, asthma and skin symptoms and have reduced spirometric lung function. Exposure to cyanoacrylate is related to significantly increased respiratory symptoms. Results suggest that the furniture industry using rubber tree wood should implement appropriate exposure control measures to reduce wood dust exposure and cyanoacrylate glue exposure to protect their employees.

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  • Competing interests: None.

  • Funding: This study was supported by a grant from the Royal Thai Government.

  • Ethics approval: The study was approved by the ethics committee of the Faculty of Public Health, Mahidol University, Thailand.

  • An appendix is published online only at