Concern about upper respiratory tract irritation and other symptoms among workers at a glass bottle manufacturing plant led to an epidemiologic and an industrial hygiene survey. Questionnaire responses from 35 hot end and 53 cold end workers indicated that the incidence of wheezing, chest pain, dyspnea on exertion, and cough was significantly elevated among hot end workers. Among both smokers and nonsmokers, hot end workers reported higher, but not significantly higher, rates of wheezing and chest pain. Among smokers, hot end workers reported significantly higher rates of dyspnea on exertion and cough than did cold end workers. Data suggest that reported exposure to stannic chloride solution likely caused these symptoms. The industrial hygiene survey, conducted when stannic chloride use had been reduced, cleaning had been done, and ventilation improved, focused on measuring air contaminants that might possibly cause symptoms. Levels of hydrogen chloride, which apparently was formed by the combination of stannic chloride and water in the presence of heat, were elevated. The finding of increased prevalence of respiratory symptoms among hot end workers was consistent with this exposure. Recommendations were made to reduce hazardous exposures at this plant. Individuals responsible for occupational health should be aware that relatively benign substances, such as stannic chloride and water, can combine spontaneously to form hazardous substances.
©1985 The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine