Hard-rock mining exposures affect smokers and nonsmokers differently. Results of a community prevalence study

Am Rev Respir Dis. 1989 Jun;139(6):1487-93. doi: 10.1164/ajrccm/139.6.1487.


The physiologic consequences of occupational dust exposure, their relation to smoking, and their reversibility with cessation of exposure remain controversial. To address these questions, we studied a random sample of male residents of Leadville, Colorado when the major employer, a hard-rock mine, had been closed for 5 to 11 months. Subjects were interviewed for respiratory symptoms and occupational history, underwent plethysmographic measurements of lung volume and airflow, and performed a single breath diffusing capacity procedure. Dyspnea was the only respiratory symptom exacerbated by mining exposures. Cumulative dust exposure, estimated with historic respirable dust measurements for mining job titles and weighted by time at the job, was associated with decreases in maximal expiratory flow rates when controlled for smoking, age, and height. However, determinations of plethysmographic lung volume that allowed calculation of flow rates at equivalent absolute lung volume indicated that dust effects differed in never-smokers and smokers. In never-smokers, dust exposure was associated with decreased lung volume, increased flow rates, and increased DLCO/VA. In smokers, dust exposure was associated with increased lung volume, lower flow rates, and lower DLCO/VA than that accounted for by smoking. We suggest that hard-rock mining exposures result in irreversible pulmonary function changes of airflow limitation in smokers and of a restrictive nature in never-smokers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Lung Volume Measurements
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mining*
  • Molybdenum
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / physiopathology
  • Pulmonary Gas Exchange
  • Pulmonary Ventilation
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / physiopathology
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Time Factors


  • Molybdenum