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Occup Environ Med. 2015 Feb;72(2):108-13. doi: 10.1136/oemed-2014-102262. Epub 2014 Oct 30.

Short-term lung function decline in tunnel construction workers.

Author information

1
National Institute of Occupational Health, Oslo, Norway.
2
Department of Respiratory Medicine, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

Tunnel construction workers are exposed to particulate and gaseous air contaminants. Previous studies carried out in the 1990s showed that tunnel construction workers were at increased risk of both short-term and long-term lung function decline. Since then, efforts have been made to reduce exposure. The objective of the present study was to investigate if current exposure may still cause short-term lung function impairment.

METHODS:

Tunnel workers work 12 days consecutively, and then they are off for 9 days. Ninety tunnel workers and 51 referents were examined with spirometry and questionnaires before their work period started and again 11 days later. Personal exposure to particles and α-quartz in the thoracic aerosol subfraction, elemental carbon and organic carbon, oil mist, nitrogen dioxide and ammonia was assessed on two consecutive days between the two health examinations.

RESULTS:

The geometric means air concentrations for particulate matter in the thoracic mass aerosol subfraction, α-quartz, oil mist, organic carbon and elemental carbon for all workers were 561, 63, 210, 146 and 35 μg/m(3), respectively. After 11 days of work, the mean forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1) in healthy participants had declined 73 mL (SD 173), p<0.001 in the tunnel workers, compared to 3 mL (SD 21), p=0.9 in the referents. Also, forced vital capacity (FVC) had declined significantly. Declines in FVC and FEV1 were significantly associated with exposure to organic carbon.

CONCLUSIONS:

In spite of reduced levels of exposure in modern tunnelling operations, a negative impact on lung function was still observed.

PMID:
25358744
DOI:
10.1136/oemed-2014-102262
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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