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Eur Respir J. 2005 Nov;26(5):881-6.

A 20-year follow-up study on chronic respiratory effects of exposure to cotton dust.

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Department of Environmental Health, Occupational Health Program, Harvard School of Public Health, 665 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


In order to evaluate chronic effects of long-term exposure to cotton dust on respiratory health, and the role of dust and endotoxin, longitudinal changes in lung function and respiratory symptoms were observed prospectively from 1981 to 2001 in 447 cotton textile workers, along with 472 silk textile controls. The results from five surveys conducted over the 20-yr period are reported, including standardised questionnaires, pre- and post-shift spirometric measurements, work-area inhalable dust sample collections and airborne Gram-bacterial endotoxin analysis. Cotton workers had more persistent respiratory symptoms and greater annual declines in forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) and forced vital capacity as compared with silk workers. After exposure cessation, in the final 5-yr period, the rate of FEV1 decline tended to slow in nonsmoking males, but not in nonsmoking females. Workers who reported byssinotic symptoms more persistently suffered greater declines in FEV1. Chronic loss in lung function was more strongly associated with exposure to endotoxin than to dust. In conclusion, the current study suggests that long-term exposure to cotton dust, in which airborne endotoxin appears to play an important role, results in substantial adverse chronic respiratory effects.

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