A cluster of biopsy-confirmed interstitial lung disease among workers at a nylon flock plant led to a request for National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health investigators to conduct a health hazard evaluation. Part of the overall evaluation, reported here, involved a cross-sectional medical survey of current employees. The survey consisted of a questionnaire, spirometry and diffusing capacity testing, and chest radiograph. Workers assigned to production and maintenance jobs reported frequent eye and throat irritation, respiratory symptoms, and systemic symptoms (i.e., generalized aches and fevers). Most reported improvement when away from work. Frequent respiratory/systemic symptom prevalence was significantly associated with departmental category, with days and hours worked per week, and with working on a flocking range. Compared to asymptomatic workers, symptomatic workers had similar mean ratios of forced expiratory volume in one second to forced vital capacity, but lower mean percent of predicted values for both forced vital capacity and diffusing capacity. All acceptable chest radiographs were classified as category 0 for small opacities. Findings of this study, along with those from studies reported elsewhere, implicate occupational exposure to flock-associated dust as a significant respiratory health hazard at this plant.
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