Relationship of respiratory health status to grain dust in a Witwatersrand grain mill: comparison of workers' exposure assessments with industrial hygiene survey findings

Am J Ind Med. 1993 Oct;24(4):401-11. doi: 10.1002/ajim.4700240406.


Objective measures of exposure furnished by dust monitoring are both costly and time consuming and require a sufficient level of technology. However, they are important in demonstrating exposure-response relationships, in furnishing information necessary to establish environmental control levels, and to assess if interventions, for instance, improving dust control, have been effective. In this paper respiratory symptoms and cross-shift changes in spirometric lung function were related to dust exposure level in a grain mill assessed in two ways, subjectively (by workers themselves on a four point scale) and objectively (by personal dust monitoring). Health indicators that depend on the individual's perception (e.g., symptoms) correlated more closely with the subjectively assessed dust category, while health indicators that were measured objectively (e.g., cross-week FVC and FEV1 change) correlated more closely with the objectively assessed dust category. However, the patterns of relationship of respiratory health indicators to either dust category were similar, and exposure assessed by one method was, to a large extent, a proxy for the other. The most significant predictor of workers' choice of dust exposure category was the measured dust level. These findings indicate that exposure categories based on workers' assessment of dustiness can be a useful tool in etiologic research, in particular in establishing exposure-response relationships.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Dust / adverse effects*
  • Dust / analysis
  • Edible Grain*
  • Humans
  • Occupational Diseases* / physiopathology
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pulmonary Ventilation
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / etiology*
  • South Africa
  • Spirometry


  • Dust