Hypersensitivity pneumonitis in a cluster of sawmill workers: a 10-year follow-up of exposure, symptoms, and lung function

Int J Occup Environ Health. 2014 Apr-Jun;20(2):167-73. doi: 10.1179/2049396714Y.0000000063.


Background: The long-term prognosis of repeated acute episodes of hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP) is not well described. We report on a 10-year follow-up of a 10-person cluster from a Norwegian sawmill who had all experienced relapsing episodes of HP.

Objectives: To evaluate the health symptoms, work-related sick-leave, and lung function of 10 workers exposed to mold in a Norwegian sawmill.

Methods: Participants were evaluated at baseline and 10 years later at follow-up. A structured interview, measurement of serum IgG antibodies to Rhizopus microsporus (R. microsporus) antigens, lung function tests, high resolution computed tomography (HRCT) of the chest, and personal measurements of exposure to mold spores and dust were completed for each participant.

Results: At baseline, nearly all workers reported acute episodes of HP more than twice a month. At follow-up, both the frequency and intensity of symptoms had declined. Sick-leave was reduced and gas diffusing capacity improved - paralleling the gradually reduced air levels of mold spores.

Conclusions: In spite of an initially high occurrence of symptoms, long-term clinical and physiological outcome was good. With reduced exposure to mold spores, symptoms declined and lung function was restored.

Keywords: HRCT scan,; Hypersensitivity pneumonitis,; Lung function,; Mold spore exposure,; Prognosis; Sawmills,.

MeSH terms

  • Absenteeism
  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / adverse effects*
  • Alveolitis, Extrinsic Allergic / etiology*
  • Alveolitis, Extrinsic Allergic / immunology
  • Antibodies, Fungal / blood
  • Dust / immunology
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / immunology
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Rhizopus / immunology
  • Spores, Fungal / immunology
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Wood*


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Antibodies, Fungal
  • Dust