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Pneumoconiosis and emphysema in construction workers: results of HRCT and lung function findings
  1. E Meijer1,
  2. E Tjoe Nij1,
  3. T Kraus2,
  4. J S van der Zee3,
  5. O van Delden3,
  6. M van Leeuwen4,
  7. J W Lammers4,
  8. D Heederik1
  1. 1Utrecht University, Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences, Division of Environmental Epidemiology, Utrecht, The Netherlands
  2. 2Institute and Outpatient Clinic for Occupational and Social Medicine, University Hospital, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany
  3. 3Department of Pulmonology, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  4. 4Department of Pulmonary Diseases, University Medical Center, Utrecht, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to E Meijer, Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences, Division of Environmental Epidemiology, Utrecht University, PO Box 80178, Utrecht 3508 TD, The Netherlands; e.meijer{at}


Objectives To evaluate the prevalence of HRCT findings in construction workers previously surveyed by chest radiographs classified according to ILO guidelines. To examine the association between HRCT findings and exposure to quartz containing dust, and lung function.

Methods The study comprised a questionnaire, dynamic and static lung function measurements, single-breath CO diffusion capacity, chest radiographs and HRCT in 79 individuals. Certified ‘B’ readers coded radiographs according to the ILO classification. HRCT scans were read according to an international classification system. A qualitative exposure index for cumulative respiratory quartz on a 10-point scale was used.

Results Agreement between HRCT readers was good (κ>0.60), except for irregular opacities (κ=0.23). In ILO category 0/0, 8% HRCT round, 22% irregular and/or linear opacities and 41% HRCT emphysema was found. HRCT round opacities was associated with high cumulative quartz exposure (OR 7.1; 95% CI 1.3 to 37.8). Emphysema was associated with smoking (OR 10.1; 95% CI 1.2 to 84.2) and showed a reduction in TL,CO,sb. HRCT round opacities was not associated with lung function. Current smoking was negatively associated with FEV1/FVC ratio and positively with RV/TLC ratio, and showed a reduction in TL,CO,sb (13.4%), adjusted for different HRCT findings.

Conclusions Low grade silicosis cannot be excluded in workers with normal chest radiographs (ILO 0/0). In relatively highly exposed construction workers, a sevenfold increased risk of simple (nodular) silicosis was found. Emphysema on HRCT was associated with current or former smokers, but not with exposure, and contributed to reduced diffusion capacity. Airflow limitation was mainly determined by current smoking and was not associated with simple (nodular) silicosis.

  • Construction workers
  • emphysema
  • HRCT
  • pneumoconiosis
  • silicosis
  • health surveillance
  • lung function
  • construction

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  • Funding This project was funded by Arbouw (Harderwijk, the Netherlands), a Dutch institute for occupational health and safety in the construction industry.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the medical ethics committees of the Academic Medical Center Amsterdam and University Medical Center Utrecht.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.