Potential health effects of the indoor environment in office buildings and aircraft have generated considerable concern in recent years. AIMS: To analyse the prevalence of self reported respiratory symptoms and illnesses in flight attendants (FAs) and schoolteachers. Data were collected as part of a study of reproductive health among female FAs. The prevalences of work related eye, nose, and throat symptoms, wheezing, physician diagnosed asthma, chest illness, and cold or flu were calculated and stratified by smoking status in 1824 FAs and 331 schoolteachers. FAs and teachers were significantly more likely to report work related eye (12.4% and 7.4 %, respectively), nose (15.7% and 8.1%), and throat symptoms (7.5% and 5.7%) than were other working women (2.9% eye, 2.7% nose, and 1.3% throat symptoms). FAs were significantly more likely than teachers and referent working women to report chest illness during the prior three years (32.9%, 19.3%, 7.2%, respectively). Both study groups were more likely to report five or more episodes of cold or flu in the past year than were other working women (10.2% of FAs, 8.2% of teachers, 2.3% of referents), and both groups were more likely to report wheezing than other working women (22.8% of FAs, 28.4% of teachers, 16.4% of referents). FAs were significantly less likely than teachers and other working women to report ever having been diagnosed with asthma (8.2%, 13.3%, 11.8%, respectively). Overall, FAs and schoolteachers report a higher prevalence of work related upper respiratory symptoms, chest illness, and cold or flu than the general working population.
Dr E A Whelan Industrywide Studies Branch, DSHEFS, NIOSH, 4676 Columbia Parkway, R-15, Cincinnati, Ohio 45226, USA