Background: Four sawmills, a wood chipping mill, and five joineries in New South Wales, Australia, were studied for the effects of personal exposure to wood dust, endotoxins. (1-->3)-beta-D-glucans, Gram-negative bacteria, and fungi on lung function among woodworkers.
Methods: Personal inhalable and respirable dust sampling was carried out. The lung function tests of workers were conducted before and after a workshift.
Results: The mean percentage cross-shift decrease in lung function was markedly high for woodworkers compared with the controls. Dose-response relationships among personal exposures and percentage cross-shift decrease in lung function and percentage predicted lung function were more pronounced among joinery workers compared with sawmill and chip mill workers. Woodworkers had markedly high prevalence of regular cough, phlegm, and chronic bronchitis compared with controls. Significant associations were found between percentage cross-shift decrease in FVC and regular phlegm and blocked nose among sawmill and chip mill workers. Both joinery workers and sawmill and chip mill workers showed significant relationships between percentage predicted lung function (FVC, FEV1, FEV1/FVC, FEF25-75%) and respiratory symptoms.
Conclusions: Wood dust and biohazards associated with wood dust are potential health hazards and should be controlled.