Respiratory health of welders in a container yard, Sri Lanka

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Abstract

Background

The fumes and gases released during welding can lead to respiratory ill-health.

Aims

To assess prevalence of respiratory symptoms (RS) and respiratory function (RF) of welders in comparison to a control group (CG).

Methods

A cross-sectional study was conducted among welders and controls selected from office support staff of a medical faculty. RS were determined by administering a questionnaire and RF with the use of an electronic spirometer.

Results

Forty-one welders and 41 controls participated. Chronic bronchitis was significantly higher among welders (27%; n=11) than in controls (7%; n=3) with an odds ratio of 4.6 [95% confidence interval (CI): 1.1–23.3]. Forced vital capacity (FVC), forced expiratory volume in the first second of forced vital capacity (FEV1.0), forced mid-expiratory flow rate (FEF25–75%) and peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR) were slightly higher among welders (2.97 l, 2.6 l, 3.4 l/s and 339 l/min, respectively) than in the CG (2.79 l, 2.4 l, 3.38 l/s and 323 l/min, respectively), the differences of which were not statistically significant. On comparison of the observed values of welders with the predicted normal values, the observed FVC (2.97 versus 3.35 l, respectively) and PEFR (339 versus 538 l/min) had significantly lower values.

Conclusions

Welders are at a higher risk of developing chronic bronchitis with non-impairment of lung function in comparison to the CG.

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