Objectives: There are epidemiological studies indicating that exposure to metal fumes is a risk factor for infectious pneumonia. Whether occupational exposure to other agents, such as inorganic dust or chemicals, also increases the risk for infectious pneumonia is not clear. The aim of the present study was to elucidate whether occupational exposure to respiratory pollutants and irritants increases the risk for infectious pneumonia.
Design: Prospective cohort study. Setting Swedish male construction workers. Participants 320 143 male construction workers exposed to inorganic dust (asbestos, man-made mineral fibres, dust from cement, concrete and quartz), wood dust, metal fumes and chemicals (organic solvents, diisocyanates and epoxi resins) or unexposed.
Main outcome measures: The cohort was followed from 1971 to 2003 and the main outcome measures were mortality to infectious pneumonia, lobar pneumonia or pneumococcal pneumonia. RRs were obtained by the person-years method and from Poisson regression models, adjusting for baseline values of age and smoking habits.
Results: Among men aged 20e64 years there was increased mortality from infectious pneumonias among construction workers exposed to metal fumes (RR 2.31, 95% CI 1.35 to 3.95), inorganic dust (RR 1.87, 95% CI 1.22 to 2.87) and chemicals (RR 1.91, 95% CI 1.37 to 3.22). The mortality was also increased from both lobar pneumonia and pneumococcal pneumonia. Among men aged 65-84 years the occupational exposure to inorganic dust and chemicals was associated with slightly increased mortality from infectious pneumonia. Among groups with mutually exclusive exposures there was increased mortality from infectious pneumonias among construction workers exposed to inorganic dust, but not among those exposed to wood dust or chemicals. There were no cases among workers exposed only to metal fumes.
Conclusions: Our findings indicate that exposure to inorganic dust increases the mortality from infectious pneumonias, especially lobar pneumonia and pneumococcal pneumonia. The mechanism is unclear, but the effect may be mediated through induced airways inflammation.
London: British medical association , 2011. Vol. 66, no 11, 992-996 p.