Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 1996;22(2):102-107    pdf


Improved nasal clearance among pulp mill workers after reduction of lime dust levels

by Torén K, Brisman J, Hagberg S, Karlsson G

Objectives The purpose of this study was to investigate nasal symptoms and function among workers exposed to lime dust and to determine if a reconstruction of the workplace improved the worker's nasal health.

Methods In 1992, pulp-mill workers (N=15) exposed to lime dust and an equal number of matched unexposed referents were examined by questionnaires, nasal peak expiratory flow, the saccharin test, nasal lavage, and a clinical examination of the upper airways. The study was repeated one year later, after the pulp mill had been rebuilt. Dust levels were measured on both occasions with stationary and personal samplings.

Results In 1992 the total dust level was 1.2 mg·m-3. The saccharin test showed a significantly increased nasal transit time for the exposed workers in comparison with that of the unexposed referents (difference 3.5 min, 95% confidence interval 0.1 -- 6.9 min). One year later the dust levels had decreased to 0.1 mg·m-3, and the difference in nasal transit time had decreased (difference -0.8 min, 95% confidence interval -4.8--3.3 min).

Conclusion Workers exposed to lime dust have an impaired mucociliary function. This impairment is probably due to the alkalinity of the lime. When dust levels are reduced, mucociliary function improves; therefore renovating a workplace to reduce dust levels has a positive effect.