Respiratory disorders and atopy in cotton, wool, and other textile mill workers in Denmark

Am J Ind Med. 1992;22(2):163-84. doi: 10.1002/ajim.4700220204.


A cross-sectional study of respiratory disorders and atopy in Danish textile industry workers was conducted to survey respiratory symptoms throughout the textile industry, to estimate the association of these disorders with atopy, and to study dose-response relationships within the cotton industry. Workers at cotton mills, a wool mill, and a man-made fiber (MMF) mill were examined. Four hundred nine (90%) of the 445 workers participated in this survey, i.e., 253, 62, and 94 workers at the cotton mills, the wool mill, and the MMF mill, respectively. An interview designed to assess the prevalence of common respiratory and allergic symptoms was given to all workers willing to participate, and blood samples were drawn. Lung function measurements determined a baseline FEV1, FVC and the change in FEV1 and FVC during work hours on a Monday. The working environment was examined for dust, bacteria, endotoxins, and molds, and the exposure was estimated for each participant. The mean personal samples of airborne respirable dust and respirable endotoxin were highest in the cotton industry, i.e., 0.17-0.50 mg/m3 and 9.0-126 ng/m3 respectively, whereas mold spores were found in the highest concentrations in the wool mill: 280-791 colony-forming units (cfu)/m3. Only small concentrations of microorganisms were found in the MMF mill. The mean change in FEV1% and FVC% was greatest among atopic individuals in both cotton and wool industry and other textile industries although the differences were not significant. FEV1% and FVC% in the cotton workers were significantly associated with the cumulative exposure to respirable endotoxin. Byssinosis was diagnosed only in the cotton industry. We found a dose-response relationship between endotoxin exposure and byssinosis, and a significant association between A-1-A serum concentrations less than or equal to 35 mumol/liter and byssinosis, a finding we are further evaluating in subsequent studies.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Byssinosis / etiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Gossypium / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Respiration Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Respiratory Hypersensitivity / epidemiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Textile Industry*
  • Wool / adverse effects