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To study respiratory effects of exposure to soft paper dust exposure, a relationship that is rarely studied.
Soft tissue paper mill workers at a Swedish paper mill were investigated using a questionnaire and lung function and atopy screening. Spirometry without bronchodilation was performed with a dry wedge spirometer, and forced vital capacity (FVC) and forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1) were obtained and expressed as percent predicted. Exposure to soft paper dust was assessed from historical stationary and personal measurements of total dust, in addition to historical information about the work, department, and production. The impact of high exposure to soft paper dust (> 5 mg/m3) vs. lower exposure ≤ 5 mg/m3, as well as cumulative exposure, was analyzed using multiple linear regression models. Multivariate models were adjusted for smoking, atopy, gender, and body mass index.
One hundred ninety-eight current workers (124 male and 74 female) were included. There were significant associations between both cumulative exposure and years of high exposure to soft paper dust and impaired lung function. Each year of high exposure to soft paper dust was associated with a 0.87% decrease in FEV1 [95% confidence interval (CI) − 1.39 to − 0.35] and decreased FVC (− 0.54%, 95% CI − 1.00 to − 0.08) compared to the lower exposed workers.
The present study shows that occupational exposure to soft paper dust (years exceeding 5 mg/m3 total dust) is associated with lung function impairment and increased prevalence of obstructive lung function impairment.