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Curr Opin Pulm Med. 2013 Mar;19(2):158-62. doi: 10.1097/MCP.0b013e32835ceeae.

Respiratory hazards of metal smelting.

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  • 1Medical Division, Akershus University Hospital, Oslo, Norway.



The metal smelting industry is an important industry in the majority of countries in the world and employs millions of workers. In most of the production types, a variety of pollutants are emitted into the workplace atmosphere. Some of these pollutants have sensitizing properties, whereas other act as irritants in the respiratory tract. This review will explore the recent studies (2010-2012) which address the impact of exposure to pollutants in the smelting industry on nonmalignant respiratory disorders.


The association between different respiratory symptoms as well as pulmonary function and the level of exposure to different agents has been investigated. Likewise, the effect of primary prevention (exposure reduction) and secondary prevention (relocation) has been studied. Finally, the association between the incidence of community-acquired pneumonia and exposure to pollutants encountered at work in the smelting industry and the results from mortality studies are reported.


It appears that exposure to emissions of pollutants in the smelting industry is associated with respiratory symptoms, including asthma, lung function decline and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, depending on the type of production. Moreover, it is possible that these exposures may enhance the risk of infectious pneumonia.

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