2011 Volume 53 Issue 6 Pages 432-438
Purpose: The aim of this study was to ascertain whether symptoms of respiratory disorders and lung functional impairments are associated with occupational inhalation exposure to carbon black (CB) in a group of rubber workers. Methods: The study population consisted of 72 male workers with a past history of and current exposure to CB and 69, randomly selected, healthy unexposed male office workers that served as the referent group. Subjects were interviewed and given standardized respiratory symptom questionnaires to answer. Furthermore, pulmonary function tests (PFTs) were performed before and after the work shift for exposed subjects and once during the work shift for referent subjects. Furthermore, to assess the extent to which workers were exposed to CB, using standard methods, inhalable and respirable dust fractions of CB were measured in different dusty worksites. Results: The levels of exposure to inhalable and respirable CB dust were estimated to be 6.2 ± 1.7 and 2.3 ± 0.29 mg/m3 respectively (mean ± SD). Respiratory symptom questionnaires revealed that regular cough, phlegm, wheezing and shortness of breath were significantly (p<0.05) more prevalent among exposed workers. Furthermore, significant decreases in some preshift and postshift parameters of pulmonary function of exposed workers with a spirometric pattern consistent with restrictive ventilatory disorder were found. Conclusion: The findings of this study provide circumstantial evidence to support the notion that exposure to CB exceeding its current TLV is associated with a significant increase in the prevalence of respiratory symptoms along with both acute, partially reversible and chronic irreversible significant decreases in some parameters of pulmonary function.