Background: Given the evidence of both acute cross-shift and short-term decrements in lung function in boilermaker construction workers following occupational exposure to combustion particulates, we sought to determine whether exposure is associated with an annual loss in lung function.
Methods: As part of an ongoing investigation, we conducted a 2-year longitudinal study of lung function among 118 boilermakers. Exposure was assessed with a work history questionnaire. Spirometry measurements were performed annually.
Results: We found an association between annual FEV(1) and hours worked at a gas-fired plant during the previous year, beta = - 9.8 mls/100 hours worked (95% CI: - 16.0, - 3.5) after adjustment for age, baseline FEV(1) and cigarette smoking status. The adjusted association between FEV(1) and "ever" worked at a gas-fired plant was - 99.7 mls (95% CI: - 154.8, - 44.5). There was also evidence of a negative association between FEV(1) and "ever" worked and hours worked at oil and coal-fired plants.
Conclusions: These data suggest an association between annual lung function loss and working at gas, coal and oil-fired plants. Further follow-up of this cohort of boilermakers is in progress.