Flock worker's lung: broadening the spectrum of clinicopathology, narrowing the spectrum of suspected etiologies

Chest. 2000 Jan;117(1):251-9. doi: 10.1378/chest.117.1.251.


Study objectives: Workers in the nylon flocking industry recently have been found to be at increased risk of chronic nongranulomatous interstitial lung disease. Although a spectrum of cytologic and histopathologic abnormalities has been observed, nonspecific interstitial pneumonia, lymphoid nodules, and lymphocytic bronchiolitis predominated in the 19 previously reported cases of flock worker's lung. Here we describe five additional patients who appear to expand the histopathologic spectrum and add to the evidence suggesting a causative role for respirable-sized nylon fragments.

Methods: We studied all North American patients (n = 5) found in 1998 to satisfy our previous case definition of flock worker's lung. Two pulmonary pathologists independently reviewed each biopsy specimen.

Results: All five patients reported cough and dyspnea. Only one patient had crackles on chest auscultation. High-resolution CT scan, interpreted with attention to subtle ground-glass attenuation, remained a highly sensitive diagnostic test. Pulmonary function tests and plain chest radiograph were less sensitive. One patient's wedge biopsy showed previously described prototypical findings. Two others had transbronchial biopsies showing some of the same features. The fourth patient's wedge biopsy showed desquamative interstitial pneumonia. The fifth patient had bilateral synchronous adenocarcinoma but with radiographic evidence of diffuse interstitial fibrosis. These 5 patients and the 19 patients studied previously were exposed to nylon flock manufactured by a rarely used cutting technology.

Conclusion: Findings in these five patients appear to broaden the spectrum of the clinicopathology of flock worker's lung and add to the evidence incriminating respirable-sized nylon particulates produced during the manufacture and use of rotary-cut nylon flock.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biopsy
  • Chronic Disease
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / diagnostic imaging
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / etiology*
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / pathology
  • Male
  • Nylons / adverse effects*
  • Occupational Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / pathology
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Radiography, Thoracic
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Textile Industry*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed


  • Nylons