Respiratory effects of current exposure in Norwegian sawmill workers – A longitudinal study

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Sawmill workers are exposed to a mixture of airborne contaminants including wood dust, terpenes, microorganisms and resin acids.

Cross-sectional and longitudinal studies in the furniture industry have shown that exposure to wood dust is related to respiratory symptoms and diseases including asthma, chronic bronchitis and rhino-conjunctivitis as well as acute and chronic lung function changes.

The role of workplace exposures in sawmills is less well known in spite of a number of cross-sectional studies. Most studies show associations with dust exposure but without further characterization of the aerosol. In a longitudinal study including one sawmill, no significant association was found between wood dust exposure and change in lung function.

The aim of the present study is to study if the current exposure of sawmill workers has relations to respiratory and inflammatory effects. To achieve this goal we characterize the exposure of sawmill workers to wood dust from different species (spruce and pine), groups and species of microorganisms, terpenes and resin acids through personal sampling among 150 – 300 sawmill workers, giving a total of approximately 2500 measurements. Moreover, we follow all the employees in the participating 11 sawmills for four years with yearly health examinations including a respiratory questionnaire, spirometry, acoustic rhinometry, exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO) and blood tests (allergy, inflammatory markers, SP-D and CC16). A total of 447 employees were included in the study at the first examinations in the winter 2012/2013.

By studying determinants of exposure to relevant agents  STAMI aims to assist the industry in their work with preventive measures.

Contact:

Helle Laier Johnsen (STAMI): hlj@stami.no

 

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