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Thorax. 2013 Jun;68(6):565-70. doi: 10.1136/thoraxjnl-2012-203029. Epub 2013 Mar 6.

Adverse respiratory effects associated with cadmium exposure in small-scale jewellery workshops in India.

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Department of Physiology, University of Kalyani, Kalyani, West Bengal, India.



Cadmium (Cd) is an important metal with both common occupational and environmental sources of exposure. Although it is likely to cause adverse respiratory effects, relevant human data are relatively sparse.


A cross-sectional study of 133 workers in jewellery workshops using Cd under poor hygienic conditions and 54 referent jewellery sales staffs was performed. We assessed symptoms, performed spirometry, measured urinary Cd levels in all study subjects and quantified airborne total oxidant contents for 35 job areas in which the studied workforce was employed. We tested the association of symptoms with exposure relative to the unexposed referents using logistic regression analysis, and tested the association between urinary Cd levels and lung function using multiple regression analysis, adjusting for demographics, smoking and area-level airborne oxidants.


Exposed workers had 10 times higher urinary Cd values than referents (geometric mean 5.8 vs 0.41 µg/dl; p<0.01). Of the exposed subjects, 75% reported respiratory tract symptoms compared with 33% of the referents (OR=3.1, 95% CI 1.4 to 7.3). Forced vital capacity (FVC) and forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1) were also lower among the exposed workers than the referents (>600 ml decrement for each, p<0.001). For every 1 µg increase in urinary Cd there was a 34 ml decrement in FVC and a 39 ml decrement in FEV1 (p<0.01), taking into account other covariates including workplace airborne oxidant concentrations.


This cohort of heavily exposed jewellery workers experienced frequent respiratory symptoms and manifested a marked deficit in lung function, demonstrating a strong response to Cd exposure.


Occupational Lung Disease

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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