An industry-wide pulmonary study of men and women manufacturing refractory ceramic fibers

Am J Epidemiol. 1998 Nov 1;148(9):910-9. doi: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.aje.a009717.


An industry-wide pulmonary morbidity study was undertaken to evaluate the respiratory health of employees manufacturing refractory ceramic fibers at five US sites between 1987 and 1989. Refractory ceramic fibers are man-made vitreous fibers used for high temperature insulation. Of the 753 eligible current employees, 742 provided occupational histories and also completed the American Thoracic Society respiratory symptom questionnaire; 736 also performed pulmonary function tests. Exposure to refractory ceramic fibers was characterized by classifying workers as production or nonproduction employees and calculating the duration of time spent in production employment. The risk of working in the production of refractory ceramic fibers and having one or more respiratory symptoms was estimated by adjusted odds ratios and found to be 2.9 (95 percent confidence interval 1.4-6.2) for men and 2.4 (95 percent confidence interval 1.1-5.3) for women. The effect of exposure to refractory ceramic fibers on forced vital capacity (FVC), forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1), the ratio of the two (FEV1/FVC), and forced expiratory flow (liters/second) between 25 percent and 75 percent of the FVC curve (FEF(25-75)) was evaluated by multiple regression analysis using transformed values adjusted for height, by dividing by the square of each individual's height. For men, there was a significant decline in FVC for current and past smokers of 165.4 ml (p < 0.01) and 155.5 ml (p = 0.04), respectively, per 10 years of work in the production of refractory ceramic fibers. For FEV1, the decline was significant (p < 0.01) only for current smokers at 134.9 ml. For women, the decline was greater and significant for FVC among nonsmokers, who showed a decrease of 350.3 ml (p = 0.05) per 10 years of employment in the production of refractory ceramic fibers. These findings indicate that there may be important sex differences in response to occupational and/or environmental exposure.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases / epidemiology
  • Lung Diseases / etiology*
  • Lung Diseases / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Mineral Fibers / adverse effects*
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / physiopathology
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Prevalence
  • Prognosis
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Mineral Fibers