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Reduced lung function among sisal processors
  1. Akwilina Kayumba1,
  2. Bente Elisabeth Moen2,
  3. Magne Bråtveit2,
  4. Wijnand Eduard3,
  5. Yohana Mashalla4
  1. 1Tanzania Occupational Health Services, Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania
  2. 2Department of Public Health and Primary Health Care and Centre for International Health, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway
  3. 3National Institute of Occupational Health, Oslo, Norway
  4. 4University of Botswana, School of Medicine, Gaborone, Botswana
  1. Correspondence to Bente Elisabeth Moen, Department of Public Health and Primary Health Care and Centre for International Health, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway; bente.moen{at}


Objectives The objective of this study was to examine lung function and chronic respiratory symptoms among sisal workers in Tanzania and compare the results with a control group.

Methods A cross-sectional study on chronic respiratory symptoms and lung function was conducted in 2006 among male Tanzanian sisal processing workers from six sisal estates. Participants included 86 workers in decortication departments, 68 workers in brushing departments and 30 low exposed security guards. The response rate was 97%. Chronic respiratory symptoms and background information were obtained by structured interview. Forced ventilatory capacity (FVC) and forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1) were estimated before and after a work shift, and FEV1/FVC ratio calculated.

Results Workers were aged 19–85, with the oldest in the brushing and security departments. Chronic cough and chest tightness were experienced by 38% and 68% of workers in brushing departments, 20% and 6% of workers in decortication and 7% and 0% of security workers, respectively. A reduced FEV1/FVC ratio related to years of work was found among workers in brushing departments when adjusting for age, smoking, previous respiratory illnesses and body mass index, using regression analyses. Work in decortication departments was not related to reduced lung function parameters. The prevalence of FEV1/FVC<70 was above 50 for all three groups. Lung function parameters were similar before and after work shifts, except that peak expiratory flow increased among workers in brushing departments after work shifts.

Conclusions The results indicate a relationship between work in sisal brushing departments and the development of obstructive lung disorders.

  • Lung function
  • occupational hygiene
  • organic dust
  • hygiene/occupational hygiene

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  • Funding The Norwegian Programme for Development, Research and Education (NUFU) funded this study.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the ethics committees for medical research in both Norway (region West) and Tanzania.

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