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Byssinosis in Cotton Textile Workers: Respiratory Survey of a Mill with Rapid Labor Turnover

AREND BOUHUYS, M.D., F.A.C.P.; RONALD L. WOLFSON, M.D.; DANIEL W. HORNER, M.D.; JOSEPH D. BRAIN, SC.D. HYG.; and EUGENIJA ZUSKIN, M.D.
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New Haven, Connecticut; and Atlanta, Georgia


Ann Intern Med. 1969;71(2):257-269. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-71-2-257
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SUMMARY:

Sixty-one (29%) of 214 male workers exposed to dust in carding and spinning rooms of a cotton textile mill had byssinosis—that is, chest tightness, or cough, or both—on Mondays during work. Symptom prevalence was higher among cigarette smokers but had no relation to duration of employment; prevalence rates were similar among carders and spinners. In 66 carders and spinners forced expiratory volume in 1 sec (FEV1) decreased significantly on Monday; maximum expiratory flow volume (MEFV) curves showed decreases of flow rates on the effort-independent portion of these curves. These changes were similar among men who had worked less than 1 year and among those who had worked longer. Similar pulmonary function changes during dust exposure were found in 20 new workers during initial exposures.

When inhaled, airborne cotton dust in textile mills causes symptoms and lung function changes without previous sensitization. Since about 17,000 U. S. cotton textile workers may have byssinosis, measures to prevent dust inhalation by these workers are urgently needed, and periodic medical examinations (including FEV1 tests) should be used to detect severe acute responses to dust as well as early signs of chronic lung disease and irreversible lung function loss.

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