Respiratory function in power plant workers exposed to nitrogen dioxide

Occup Med (Lond). 2014 Dec;64(8):644-6. doi: 10.1093/occmed/kqu129. Epub 2014 Sep 2.


Background: Power plant workers are potentially exposed to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and may therefore be at higher risk of pulmonary diseases than the general population.

Aims: To assess the association of NO2 exposure with spirometric abnormalities in power plant workers.

Methods: Forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1), forced vital capacity (FVC) and forced expiratory ratio (FER = FEV1/FVC) were correlated with demographic characteristics, smoking history and environmental exposure to NO2 in power plant workers exposed to environmental NO2 at work and in a control group of administrative employees. Twenty-four hour environmental NO2 concentrations were measured at each workplace.

Results: The concentrations of environmental NO2 ranged from 1.21 to 7.82 mg m(-3) with a mean value of 3.91 + 1.51 mg m(-3). The results showed that FEV1 and FVC were significantly lower in 347 power plant workers than in the 349 controls (P < 0.001). The FER was significantly correlated with age, environmental NO2 concentration, smoking and height.

Conclusions: Occupational exposure to NO2 emissions in power plants is significantly associated with lung function abnormalities as assessed by spirometry. Spirometric measurements in power plant workers exposed to NO2 emissions may be an effective means of detecting early signs of impaired respiratory health in this group of workers.

Keywords: FER; FEV1; FVC; nitrogen dioxide; power generation; power plant; respiratory function; spirometry..

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Forced Expiratory Volume
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Nitrogen Dioxide / adverse effects*
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology
  • Occupational Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Power Plants / statistics & numerical data*
  • Respiration Disorders / epidemiology
  • Respiration Disorders / etiology
  • Respiration Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Respiration*
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Spirometry
  • Vital Capacity


  • Nitrogen Dioxide