The aim of this study was to assess short-term changes in pulmonary function in drill floor workers currently exposed to airborne contaminants generated as a result of drilling offshore. We also aimed to study the prevalence of pulmonary fibrosis using high-resolution computed tomography (HRCT) scans of another group of previously exposed drill floor workers.
Pulmonary function was measured before and after a 14-day work period in a follow-up study of 65 drill floor workers and 65 referents. Additionally, 57 other drill floor workers exposed to drilling fluids during the 1980s were examined with HRCT of the lungs in a cross-sectional study.
The drill floor workers had a statistically significant decline in forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1) across the 14-day work period after adjustment for diurnal variations in pulmonary function (mean 90 mL, range 30–140 mL), while the small decline among the referents (mean 20 mL, range − 30 to 70 mL) was not of statistical significance. Larger declines in FEV1 among drill workers were associated with the fewer number of days of active drilling. There were no signs of pulmonary fibrosis related to oil mist exposure among the other previously exposed drill floor workers.
After 14 days offshore, a statistically significant decline in FEV1 was observed in the drill floor workers, which may not be related to oil mist exposure. No pulmonary fibrosis related to oil mist exposure was observed.