Respiratory symptoms and lung function in workers in heavy and highway construction: a cross-sectional study.
Oliver-LC; Miracle-McMahill-H; Littman-AB; Oakes-JM; Gaita-RR Jr.
Am J Ind Med 2001 Jul; 40(1):73-86
BACKGROUND: Occupational exposures for workers in heavy and highway (HH) construction include cement-containing dusts and diesel exhaust (DE). To investigate possible health effects, respiratory symptoms and lung function were examined in laborers, tunnel workers (TW), and operating engineers (OE) in HH and tunnel construction. The principal outcome of interest was airways disease. METHODS: Subjects were recruited through their unions. Medical and occupational histories and flow-volume loops were obtained. Based on self-report, asthma and chronic bronchitis were categorized as (1) physician-diagnosed or (2) for asthma, undiagnosed likely, and (3) for chronic bronchitis, symptomatic. Trade and time in the union were used as surrogates of exposure. Prevalence of asthma and chronic bronchitis, lung function outcome, and relationships with exposure variables were examined. RESULTS: Data were obtained on 389 workers: 186 laborers, 45 TWs, and 158 OEs. Prevalence of asthma was 13 and 11.4% for laborers (including TW) and OEs, respectively, and of symptomatic chronic bronchitis, 6.5 and 1.9%, respectively. Odds ratios (OR) for undiagnosed asthma likely were significantly elevated in TWs compared to OEs, and marginally elevated for chronic bronchitis. Inverse relationships were observed between time in the union, and risk for asthma and chronic bronchitis. Asthma (physician-diagnosed or undiagnosed likely) predicted lower FEV(1). Current cigarette use was associated with chronic bronchitis but not asthma. CONCLUSIONS: TWs, laborers, and OEs in HH construction are at increased risk for asthma. TWs also appear to be at increased risk for chronic bronchitis. Our data suggest that symptomatic workers are self-selecting out of their trade. Asthma was associated with lower lung function in those affected.
Construction; Construction-industry; Construction-workers; Construction-materials; Worker-health; Respiratory-system-disorders; Pulmonary-system-disorders; Lung-disease; Lung-disorders; Lung-function; Breathing; Bronchial-asthma; Tunnel-workers; Tunneling; Silica-dusts; Road-construction; Exposure-assessment; Cements; Diesel-exhausts; Dust-exposure; Dust-inhalation; Dusts; Employee-exposure; Clinical-diagnosis; Airway-resistance; Smoking; Cigarette-smoking; Health-surveys; Risk-analysis; Statistical-analysis; Engineering; Epidemiology; Etiology; Humans;
Author Keywords: heavy and highway construction; tunnel workers; laborers; operating engineers; asthma; healthy worker effect
L. Christine Oliver, MD, MS, Occupational Health Institute, 1101 Beacon Street, Four West, Brookline, MA 02446
Cooperative Agreement; Construction
American Journal of Industrial Medicine
Center to Protect Workers' Rights