Respiratory symptoms and diminished lung functions associated with occupational dust exposure among iron ore mine workers in Iran


Background: Dust exposure at quarry mines is inevitable and can result in poor air quality. This research aimed to assess pulmonary symptoms and lung functions of dust-exposed workers at an iron-ore mine in eastern Iran.

Methods: An environmental cross-sectional study sampled 174 dust-exposed mine workers and 93 unexposed administrative employees as the reference group. A standardized questionnaire on respiratory symptoms was completed in accordance with recommendations of the American Thoracic Society(ATS). Calibrated spirometer measured Pulmonary Function Tests (PFTs). Data were analyzed via SPSS-21, integrating independent samples t-test, Chi-square and linear or logistic-regression models.

Results: There was no significant variation between dust-exposed and reference groups in terms of age, weight, height, work experience and the number of smokers (P>0.05). Mean levels of exposure to inhalable and respirable mineral-dust were 15.09±2.34 and 3.45±2.57 mg/m3 respectively. Pulmonary capacities of dust-exposed group were considerably decreased as compared to others (Forced Vital Capacity [FVC] 86.55±13.77 vs. 105.05±21.5; Forced Expiratory Volume in 1 second [FEV1] 88.06±16.8 vs. 105.81±21.55; FEV1/FVC 103.03±18.17 vs. 93.3±12.49; and Peak Expiratory Flow [PEF] 89.82±22.58 vs. 98.09±20.60) (P<0.001); with a higher prevalence of cough (P=0.041), wheezing (P=0.032), and dyspnea (P=0.035) among formers. Age along with exposure to respirable-dust significantly reduced FVC, FEV1 and FEV1/FVC. Cigarette consumption attenuated FVC and FEV1 on an average of 5 to 9 units.

Conclusion: Controlled occupational dust-exposure is a definitive pre-requisite to reduce respiratory problems among quarry workers, with an explicit consideration towards mineral- mine workers. Modifiable accomplices like smoking and non-compliance of PPEs usage should be amicably resolved.

Authors: Abdollah Gholami, Reza Tajik, Khaula Atif, Amin Allah Zarei, Sedigheh Abbaspour, Gholamheidar Teimori-Boghsani, Mohsen Attar
; Full Source: The Open Respiratory Medical Journal. 2020 Jan 23;14:1-7. doi: 10.2174/1874306402014010001. eCollection 2020.