Nasal symptoms among workers exposed to soft paper dust

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Objectives: To clarify whether occupational exposure to paper-dust is associated with an increased risk of non-infectious rhinitis. Methods: Thirty-seven workers exposed to paper-dust in a soft-paper mill were compared with 36 unexposed controls. The study was performed under normal working conditions during the non-pollen season. Medical and occupational history was taken down in a comprehensive questionnaire and nasal symptoms were scored on a visual analogue scale (VAS). Pulmonary and nasal function was assessed by spirometry, acoustic rhinometry and peak nasal inspiratory flow. Nasal lavage was analysed for interleukin-8 (IL-8) and nasal transit time was monitored with the saccharine test. Concentrations of inhalable dust for each exposed subject during the day of the clinical study were measured with personal sampling devices. Results: There was an increased prevalence of nasal blockage and crust formation among the exposed workers. However, there was no difference with regard to acoustic rhinometry, nasal transit time or nasal peak inspiratory flow. In the whole population, IL-8 in nasal lavage was higher among men than among women, 193 ng/l vs 132 ng/l, P=0.006. There was also a positive trend (P=0.01) with increasing nasal IL-8 going from non-smokers (122 ng/l), ex-smokers (126 ng/l) to current smokers (235 ng/l). Conclusions: We have found that occupational exposure to paper-dust is associated with symptoms of nasal blockage and nasal crusting. We find no objective signs of nasal inflammation, even among the subgroup with the highest current exposure.

Received: 13 March 2000 / Accepted: 5 August 2000