Long-term respiratory health effects in textile workers

Curr Opin Pulm Med. 2013 Mar;19(2):152-7. doi: 10.1097/MCP.0b013e32835cee9a.


Purpose of review: Over 60 million people worldwide work in the textile or clothing industry. Recent studies have recognized the contribution of workplace exposures to chronic lung diseases, in particular chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Early studies in textile workers have focused on the relationship between hemp or cotton dust exposure and the development of a syndrome termed byssinosis. The purpose of this review is to evaluate the effect of long-term exposure to organic dust in textile workers on chronic respiratory disease in the broader context of disease classifications, such as reversible or irreversible obstructive lung disease (i.e. asthma or COPD), and restrictive lung disease.

Recent findings: Cessation of exposure to cotton dust leads to improvement in lung function. Recent animal models have suggested a shift in the lung macrophage:dendritic cell population ratio as a potential mechanistic explanation for persistent inflammation in the lung due to repeated cotton dust-related endotoxin exposure. Other types of textile dust, such as silk, may contribute to COPD in textile workers.

Summary: Textile dust-related obstructive lung disease has characteristics of both asthma and COPD. Significant progress has been made in the understanding of chronic lung disease due to organic dust exposure in textile workers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cotton Fiber
  • Dust
  • Humans
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / physiopathology
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / etiology*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Risk Factors
  • Textile Industry*
  • Workforce


  • Dust