Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 2021;47(1):62-69    pdf full text

https://doi.org/10.5271/sjweh.3924 | Published online: 17 Sep 2020, Issue date: 01 Jan 2021

Respiratory health effects of the fiberglass-reinforced plastic lamination process in the yacht-building industry

by Chen C-H, Tsai P-J, Wang Y-F, Pan C-H, Hung P-C, Ho J-J, Perng D-W, Nemery B, Guo YL

Objectives Fiberglass-reinforced plastics (FRP) manufacturing has been related to cases of severe airway obstruction and elevated risk of respiratory mortality. But the specific job content risk is not clear. This study evaluated the respiratory health effects of the FRP lamination process.

Methods A questionnaire was used to evaluate respiratory symptoms of workers in two yacht-building plants. Pre-shift (07:30–08:30 hours) and post-shift (17:00–18:00 hours) lung function was measured, while post-shift induced sputum was collected on the first day of the week. The participants were grouped into FRP laminators and non-laminators. Linear and logistic regression was used to investigate the effects of the lamination process on lung function.

Results Laminators had a higher prevalence of chronic cough, lower pre-shift forced expiratory volume in first second (FEV1) and FEV1/force vital capacity (FVC) (-3.3% and -1.5%), lower post-shift FVC and FEV1 (-3.6% and -4.9%), and larger post-shift reduction of FVC (-2.1%) compared to non-laminators. The laminators also had higher risk of early obstructive and overall (obstructive plus restrictive) lung function impairment, and post-shift reduction of FVC >10% [odds ratio (OR) 5.98, 4.98, and 3.87, respectively). They also had higher percentages of neutrophils and lymphocytes in the induced sputum.

Conclusion Laminators should undergo regular check-ups of respiratory symptoms and lung function. Further toxicologic studies are warranted to identify the specific causal agent in the FRP lamination process.

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