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Environ Int. 2013 May;55:15-9. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2013.01.014. Epub 2013 Mar 19.

Acute changes in lung function associated with proximity to a steel plant: a randomized study.

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Environmental Health Science and Research Bureau, Health Canada, Ottawa, Canada.



Steel production is a major industry worldwide yet there is relatively little information on the pulmonary effects of air quality near steel manufacturing plants.


The aim of this study was to examine how lung function changes acutely when healthy subjects are situated near a steel plant which is adjacent to a residential area.


Sixty-one subjects were randomly assigned to spend 5 consecutive, 8-hour days in a residential neighborhood approximately 0.9km from a steel plant, or approximately 4.5km away at a college campus. Subjects crossed-over between sites after a nine-day washout period. Lung function was measured daily at both sites along with air pollutants including SO2, NO2, O3, PM2.5, and ultrafine particles. Diffusion capacity and pulse oximetry were also examined.


Compared with the college site, the forced expiratory volume in 1-second/forced vital capacity, forced expiratory flow between 25% and 75% of the FVC, total lung capacity, functional residual capacity, and residual volume were lower near the steel plant by 0.67% (95% CI: 0.28, 1.06),1.62% (95% CI: 0.50, 2.75), 1.54% (95% CI: 0.68, 2.39), 3.54% (95% CI: 1.95, 5.13) and 11.3% (95% CI: 4.92, 17.75), respectively. Diffusion capacity, forced expiratory volume in 1s, and pulse oximetry were also lower near the plant but these effects were not statistically significant. Sulfur dioxide, ultrafine particulates, and oxides of nitrogen were greater near the steel plant site compared to the college site.


Spending short periods of time near a steel plant is associated with a decrease in lung function.

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