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Follow-up study of respiratory function in hemp workers.

Zuskin-E; Mustajbegovic-J; Schachter-EN
Am J Ind Med 1994 Jul; 26(1):103-115
A study of respiratory function changes in hemp workers was conducted. This was a follow up study of 77 workers (48 females) employed at a hemp mill in Karlovac, Croatia who were originally evaluated in 1985. Sixty six hemp workers (38 females) participated in the follow up which was conducted in 1988. The mean ages of the male and female workers were 46 and 38 years, respectively. The comparisons consisted of 55 persons, 30 females, of similar age and having similar smoking habits, who were employed as food packers and not exposed to noxious agents. The subjects completed a respiratory symptom questionnaire. Cross shift spirometric testing was performed. Air monitoring for total and respirable dusts in the hemp mill was conducted. The mean total and respirable dust concentrations in the mill were 21.4 and 8.4mg/m3, respectively. These concentrations were similar to those measured in the first study. High prevalences of acute and chronic respiratory symptoms such as cough, phlegm production, bronchitis, dyspnea, chest tightness, and sinusitis were reported by the hemp mill workers. The prevalence of byssinotic symptoms was 47.4% in the female workers and 67.9% in the males. The prevalence of most symptoms had nonsignificantly increased over the followup period and was significantly higher than in the comparisons. Byssinotic symptoms were not reported by the comparisons. Significant over shift decrements in 1 second forced expiratory volume (FEV1), forced vital capacity (FVC), and maximum flow rates at 50% (FEF50) and 25% (FEF25) of vital capacity were detected in the hemp workers in both surveys. When mean annual declines in pulmonary function were calculated, large mean annual decrements in FEV1, FVC, FEF50, and FEF25 were seen in the males and in FEV1 in the female workers. The decreases in these parameters were greater in subjects who reported byssinotic symptoms than in those who did not. The authors conclude that exposure to hemp dust in poorly regulated dusty mills causes respiratory symptoms and decreases in lung function. The large mean annual decrease in FEV1 seen in female mill workers, who are predominantly nonsmokers, suggests an independent effect of hemp dust.
NIOSH-Publication; NIOSH-Grant; Pulmonary-system-disorders; Organic-dusts; Occupational-exposure; Textile-workers; Epidemiology; Pulmonary-function-tests; Clinical-symptoms; Industrial-hygiene
Medicine Mount Sinai Medical Center One Gustave L Levy Place New York, N Y 10029
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American Journal of Industrial Medicine
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Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York