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Respiratory Symptoms and Dust Exposure Among Male Workers in Small-Scale Wood Industries in Tanzania

Rongo, Larama M. B. MSc; Besselink, Anoek MSc; Douwes, Jeroen PhD; Barten, Françoise PhD; Msamanga, Gernard I. ScD; Dolmans, Wil M.V. PhD; Demers, Paul A. PhD; Heederik, Dick PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: December 2002 - Volume 44 - Issue 12 - p 1153-1160
Original Articles

Few studies have assessed respiratory symptoms and dust exposure levels in small-scale wood industry workers in Africa. We interviewed 546 workers exposed to wood dust and 565 control subjects using a respiratory health questionnaire. Inhalable dust measurements were collected for 106 workers. The dust exposure was high, and job title-based geometric mean exposure levels ranged from 2.9 to 22.8 mg/m3. Prevalence of respiratory symptoms in the previous 12 months was significantly higher in the exposed group compared with the nonexposed office workers. Allergy and sensitivity symptoms were reported regularly in the exposed group with Odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) varying from 2.4 (95% CI = 1.8–3.1) for low-and 2.7 (1.8–4.0) for high-exposure groups compared with controls. We conclude that working in the small-scale wood industry in Tanzania is associated with an increased prevalence of respiratory symptoms.

From the Community Health Department, Muhimbili University College of Health Sciences, Tanzania (Mr Rongo, Dr Msamanga); Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences, Division of Environmental and Occupational Health, Utrecht University, The Netherlands (Mr Rongo, Ms Besselink, Dr Douwes, Dr Heederik); Nijmegen Institute for International Health (NIIH), University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands (Mr Rongo, Dr Barten, Dr Dolmans); and School of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada (Dr Demers).

Address correspondence to: Mr Larama M.B. Rongo, Nijmegen Institute for International Health, P.O. Box 9101–103, 6500 HB Nijmegen, The Netherlands; e-mail:

Funding of this study was provided by the Netherlands Foundation for the Advancement of Tropical Research (WOTRO).

Copyright © by American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine

Copyright © 2002 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine