Health effects of working in pulp and paper mills: exposure, obstructive airways diseases, hypersensitivity reactions, and cardiovascular diseases

Am J Ind Med. 1996 Feb;29(2):111-22. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1097-0274(199602)29:2<111::AID-AJIM1>3.0.CO;2-V.


Workers in the pulp and paper industry are exposed to different substances, such as hydrogen sulfide and other reduced sulfur compounds, chlorine, chlorine dioxide, sulfur dioxide, terpenes, and paper dust. The exposure level depends on the process, i.e., sulfite, sulfate, groundwood, bleachery, or paper production. Hitherto, exposures have been poorly described and more studies are certainly needed. Workers with repeated exposure peaks to chlorine, e.g., bleachery workers, seem to have an impaired lung function and an increased prevalence of respiratory symptoms. Exposure to high levels of paper dust, (> 5 mg/m3) causes impaired lung function. Therefore, exposure to respiratory irritants is an important, and probably overlooked, occupational risk among certain groups of pulp and paper workers. Some studies indicate that sulfate workers with high exposure to reduced sulfur compounds have an increased mortality due to ischemic heart disease. However, before any definite conclusions can be drawn, the impact of important confounders, such as shift-work and smoking habits have to be further evaluated.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / adverse effects*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Dust / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / etiology*
  • Industry*
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / etiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Paper*
  • Risk Factors


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Dust