Respiratory symptoms and ventilatory capacity in workers in a vegetable pickling and mustard production facility

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A group of 117 women occupationally exposed in a pickling factory were studied for the prevalence of acute and chronic respiratory symptoms and lung function changes. Workers were studied by task which included (1) pickling, (2) mustard making, and (3) packing. Similar prevalences for all respiratory symptoms were seen for the three worker groups, with all groups having significantly higher prevalences of chronic cough (P < 0.05), chest tightness, nasal catarrh, and sinusitis (P < 0.01) than a nonexposed control group from a bottling plant. Prevalences of acute symptoms were greater for pickling than for mustard or packing workers. Measured forced expiratory volume in 1 s and maximum flow rates at 50% and the last 25% of the control vital capacity were in general significantly lower than predicted values for the worker subgroups. Pickling workers exposed for more than 1 year in the industry had greater across-shift reductions for all spirometric parameters tested than those workers exposed for 1 year or less. Our data suggest that extended occupational exposure in the pickling industry results in acute exposure-related respiratory effects and ultimately may lead to the development of chronic respiratory symptoms and changes in baseline lung function.