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Original article
Dust exposure is associated with increased lung function loss among workers in the Norwegian silicon carbide industry
  1. Helle Laier Johnsen1,2,
  2. Merete Drevvatne Bugge1,
  3. Solveig Føreland1,3,4,
  4. Helge Kjuus1,
  5. Johny Kongerud5,6,
  6. Vidar Søyseth2,6
  1. 1Department of Occupational Medicine and Epidemiology, National Institute of Occupational Health, Oslo, Norway
  2. 2Department of Medicine, Akershus University Hospital, Lørenskog, Norway
  3. 3Department of Occupational Medicine, St. Olav's Hospital, Trondheim University Hospital, Trondheim, Norway
  4. 4Department of Public Health and General Practice, Faculty of Medicine, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Oslo, Norway
  5. 5Department of Respiratory Medicine, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway
  6. 6Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo
  1. Correspondence to Professor Vidar Søyseth, Department of Medicine, Akershus University Hospital, Sykehusvn 25, Lørenskog 1478, Norway; vidar.soyseth{at}


Objectives To investigate the relationship between dust exposure and annual change in lung function among employees in Norwegian silicon carbide (SiC) plants using a quantitative job exposure matrix (JEM) regarding total dust.

Methods All employees, 20–55 years of age by inclusion (n=456), were examined annually for up to 5 years (1499 examinations). Spirometry was performed at each examination, and a questionnaire encompassing questions of respiratory symptoms, smoking status, job and smoking history, and present job held was completed. A JEM was constructed based on 1970 personal total dust exposure measurements collected during the study period. The association between lung function and total dust exposure was investigated using linear mixed models.

Results The annual change in forced expiratory volume (FEV) in one second per squared height, FEV1/height2, per mg/m3 increase in dust exposure was −2.3 (95% CI −3.8 to −0.79) (mL/m2)×year−1. In an employee of average height (1.79 m) and exposure (1.4 mg/m3) the estimated contribution to the annual change in FEV1 associated with dust was 10.4 mL/year. The annual change in FEV1/height2 in current, compared with non-smokers was −1.9 (−7.2 to 3.4) (mL/m2)×year−1. The estimated overall annual decline in FEV1 among current and non-smokers in the highest exposed group was −91.2 (−124.3 to −58.1) (mL/m2)×year−1 and −49.0 (−80.2 to −17.8) (mL/m2)×year−1, respectively.

Conclusions Dust exposure, expressed by a quantitative JEM, was found to be associated with an increased yearly decline in FEV1 in employees of Norwegian SiC plants.

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