Purpose of review: Although, in the industrialized world, there is a significant decline in the prevalence of cotton dust lung diseases, studies show an increasing incidence in the developing world. With rapid industrialization of the developing world, cotton dust-induced lung diseases are poised to become a global health problem. Discovery of other vegetable dusts causing similar conditions and appreciation of a wider variety of clinical features also make this an opportune time to review this topic.
Recent findings: In addition to chronic exposure-related byssinosis and less common forms of acute byssinosis, recent reports describe the rare occurrence of cotton dust-induced pulmonary fibrosis. New data also relate long-term cotton dust exposure to symptoms and physiologic changes of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. There have also been new developments relating the pathogenesis of cotton dust airway disease to endotoxin lipopolysaccharide found in cotton dust and bract extracts.
Summary: Establishment of an association between prolonged exposure to cotton and other vegetable dusts and symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease widens the clinical implication of cotton dust exposure. In addition, accumulating knowledge of endotoxins will bring about promising new developments reshaping industrial safety standards and measures to prevent cotton dust exposure.