Objectives Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Illinois at Chicago are coordinating an international historical cohort study of workers in the hard-metal industry. Funding is provided in part by the International Tungsten Industry Association. >From Austria they approached a large industrial plant in Reutte, Tyrol, and the Institute of Environmental Health at the Medical University of Vienna to coordinate the Austrian part of the study that is financially supported by the national workers insurance company.
Methods As a first result of the cooperation between Reutte and Vienna a cross-sectional study was designed based on a questionnaire directed to all present workers and to past workers with still valid addresses. This questionnaire served two purposes: (1) to announce the aim of the cohort study and (2) to obtain more detailed data on smoking history and general health history than is available in the company records.
Results In spite of repeated advertising of the questionnaire by the Reutte management only approximately 10% of all addressees (233 persons in total) responded. Active workers were overrepresented while only 78 (mostly only recently) retired workers completed the questionnaire. Also, current white collar (office) workers were overrepresented (58 persons).
Conclusions Although a respiratory disease or hypertension were each reported by about 10% of respondents the subjective health status was generally good. Better health was reported by office workers while working in departments with the highest dust exposure was not associated with poorer health. Increasing age did not consistently lead to higher symptom rates while smokers reported poorer health not only for respiratory but also for rheumatic and psychiatric symptoms.
We will also report on the progress of our ongoing work on the international epidemiology study.
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