Background: Manual cigarette lighter refilling with butane/propane admixed liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) is a common low-income occupation in India. This practice may cause adverse health effects from LPG exposure among such workers.
Objective: To assess respiratory status among LPG-exposed workers and non-exposed controls.
Methods: We quantified the exposure and evaluated respiratory symptoms and lung function among 113 LPG refilling workers (aged 41.9±9.9 years) and 79 controls (aged 40.8±7.2 years). We used multiple linear regression analysis to estimate the LPG exposure response within the group of refilling workers, adjusting for age, height and smoking status.
Results: Compared to the controls, the LPG-exposed lighter refillers manifested a 190 ml decrement in 1-second forced expiratory volume (FEV1) (2.55±0.4 vs. 2.26±0.3 l) and a 6% decrement in FEV1/forced vital capacity (FVC) (both P < 0.05). We found a significantly negative exposure response among the LPG workers: for FVC and FEV1, 44 ml per ml of reported daily LPG use in refilling (P < 0.05).
Conclusion: Likely heavy exposure to LPG through manually refilling cigarette lighters is associated with airflow decrements. This adverse effect may be relevant to other occupational groups heavily exposed to volatile hydrocarbons, especially those in marginal employment sectors.