Exposure over time to cement dust can reduce lung capacity, a new study has found.
Long-term exposure to cement dust at levels comparable to present occupational exposure limits can cause a decline in lung volumes, the research published in the European Respiratory Journal found.
It is the first study to assess whether differing levels of exposure have a different level of impact on lung health.
Thousands at risk
Over 61,000 workers in the EU are employed in the cement production industry. During the production of cement, workers can be exposed to dust generated from cement and raw materials.
Previous studies linked inhalation of this dust to airway symptoms and changes in the airflow in the lungs. But this is the first study to find the risk of ill-health was increased when the level of exposure increased.
Researchers analysed air samples from cement production plants, measured lung function of the workers and collected data from questionnaires taken at the start of the study and at the follow-up time in 2009 and 2011-2012.
The results showed that a decline in lung function over time was consistently associated with increasing exposure to dust from cement production.
Better protection needed
Dr Karl-Christian Nordby, from the National Institute of Occupational Health in Norway and lead author of the study, said that more than half of the study population was exposed to dust levels that induced significant lung function decline.
He is calling for preventive measures beyond standard respiratory protection to reduce exposure and prevent lung function decline.
Source: European Respiratory Journal