A Health Surveillance Study of Workers Employed at a Copper Smelter-Effects of Long-Term Exposure to Copper on Lung Function Using Spirometric Data

J Occup Environ Med. 2021 Aug 1;63(8):e480-e489. doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000002252.


Objective: Significantly lower permissible occupational exposure limits for copper dust are being discussed in Europe and other jurisdictions. However, little data are published on exposures in occupational settings and copper-specific effects in humans. Hence, a health surveillance study was performed among workers employed at a copper smelter between 1972 and 2018.

Methods: Possible effects of long-term exposures to dust containing copper on lung function were assessed. Specifically, declines in forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) were compared between a copper-exposed and control group. Cumulative copper exposures were derived from historical airborne monitoring data.

Results: FEV1 declines among exposed and control never smokers were similar to a typical age-dependent decline of 29 mL/y.

Conclusion: The study findings indicate that cumulative inhalable copper dust exposure averaging 4.61 mg/m3-years over an exposure duration of ∼22 years is not associated with adverse effects on lung function.

MeSH terms

  • Copper
  • Dust
  • Forced Expiratory Volume
  • Humans
  • Lung
  • Occupational Diseases* / chemically induced
  • Occupational Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Occupational Exposure* / analysis
  • Occupational Exposure* / statistics & numerical data
  • Spirometry
  • Vital Capacity


  • Dust
  • Copper