Respiratory symptoms related to flour dust exposure are significantly high among small and medium scale flour mill workers in Ethiopia: a comparative cross-sectional survey


Background: International Labour Organization (ILO) report indicates more than 2.4 million workers die from work-related diseases and accidents each year. Work-related respiratory ailments related to airborne particulate matter such as flour dust are responsible for about 386,000 deaths and 6.6 million illness-adjusted life years. Even though exposure to flour dust together with the extreme expansions of flour mill sectors is a priority health concern, extent of the problem is little investigated in Ethiopia. The aim of this study was to evaluate the magnitude and risk factors of work-related respiratory symptoms among flour mill workers in Bahir Dar City, Ethiopia.

Methods: This study employed a comparative cross-sectional survey of 560 samples (280 exposed group from flour mill workers and 280 unexposed group from office workers) with a stratified random sampling technique. The study was conducted from March to April 2019 in Bahir Dar City, Northwest Ethiopia. We used the British Medical Research Council (BMRC) questionnaire to assess work-related respiratory symptoms. The questionnaire was pretested and interview administered to collect data. Binary logistic regression analysis was fitted to evaluate significant factors of respiratory symptoms at a < 0.05 p value. Adjusted odds ratio (AOR) with a confidence interval (CI) of 95% was calculated to determine a strength of association.

Results: All the sampled participants had fully responded to the interview. The median age of exposed and unexposed groups was 28.5 interquartile range (IQR, 20) and 31 (IQR, 15) years, respectively. The prevalence of work-related respiratory symptoms among flour mill workers was substantially higher than that of among controls, 63.9% and 20.7%, respectively (Χ2 = 107.11; p < 0.0001). Chest illness among flour mill workers was higher, 43.6% (N = 122) compared to that of among control group, 7.9% (N = 22) followed by dyspnea, 33.6% (N = 94) versus 2.5% (N = 7) among flour mill workers and control group, respectively. Age > 35 years [AOR, 2.03; 95% CI (1.34, 5.48), having no education [AOR, 1.54; 95% CI (1.28, 3.06)], work set up with inadequate ventilation [AOR, 2.05; 95% CI (1.18, 3.56)], work experience > 5 years [AOR, 1.89; 95% CI (1.23, 4.67)] and having no training in safety [AOR, 2.45; 95% CI (1.45, 4.76)] significantly affected the experience of respiratory symptoms among flour mill workers whereas age [AOR, 1.79; 95% CI (1.06, 3.04)], monthly salary [AOR, 1.98; 95% CI (1.04, 3.78)] and exposure status [AOR, 5.18; 95% CI (3.34, 8.04)] were detected to be significant factors of respiratory symptoms in the exposed and the unexposed combined model.

Conclusion: Respiratory symptoms emanating from exposure to various flour dusts were significantly higher among flour mill workers than among the control group. Therefore, we recommend the need to effectively implement health and safety programs that account for the reduction of dust at a source, use of engineering controls (e.g., provision of adequate ventilation systems), use of administrative measures (e.g., training program and health surveillance) and provision of a suitable personal protective equipment (PPE). Furthermore, it is vital to integrate workplace health and safety programs to the wider public health policies and strategies to effectively mitigate the burden of work-related respiratory conditions. We also encourage future studies to evaluate concentration of flour dusts combined with physical examinations to establish plausible associations of respiratory symptoms with dusts of flour mill-related origin.

Authors: Tesfaye Hambisa Mekonnen, Awrajaw Dessie, Amensisa Hailu Tesfaye
; Full Source: Environmental health and preventive medicine 2021 Sep 29;26(1):96. doi: 10.1186/s12199-021-01019-y.