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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Lung function reduction and chronic respiratory symptoms among workers in the cement industry: a follow up study

Zeyede K Zeleke12*, Bente E Moen13 and Magne Bråtveit1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Public Health and Primary Health Care Occupational and Environmental Medicine University of Bergen, Kalfarveien 31, NO-5018 Bergen, Norway

2 Centre for International Health, University of Bergen, Overlege Danielsens Hus, Årstadveien 21, NO-5020 Bergen, Norway

3 Department of Occupational Medicine, Haukeland University Hospital, Norway

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BMC Pulmonary Medicine 2011, 11:50  doi:10.1186/1471-2466-11-50

Published: 8 November 2011



There are only a few follow-up studies of respiratory function among cement workers. The main aims of this study were to measure total dust exposure, to examine chronic respiratory symptoms and changes in lung function among cement factory workers and controls that were followed for one year.


The study was conducted in two cement factories in Ethiopia. Totally, 262 personal measurements of total dust among 105 randomly selected workers were performed. Samples of total dust were collected on 37-mm cellulose acetate filters placed in closed faced Millipore-cassettes. Totally 127 workers; 56 cleaners, 44 cement production workers and 27 controls were randomly selected from two factories and examined for lung function and interviewed for chronic respiratory symptoms in 2009. Of these, 91 workers; 38 cement cleaners (mean age 32 years), 33 cement production workers (36 years) and 20 controls (38 years) were examined with the same measurements in 2010.


Total geometric mean dust exposure among cleaners was 432 mg/m3. The fraction of samples exceeding the Threshold Limit Value (TLV) of 10 mg/m3 for the cleaners varied from 84-97% in the four departments. The levels were considerably lower among the production workers (GM = 8.2 mg/m3), but still 48% exceeded 10 mg/m3.

The prevalence of all the chronic respiratory symptoms among both cleaners and production workers was significantly higher than among the controls.

Forced Expiratory Volume in one second (FEV1) and FEV1/Forced Vital Capacity (FEV1/FVC) were significantly reduced from 2009 to 2010 among the cleaners (p < 0.002 and p < 0.004, respectively) and production workers (p < 0.05 and p < 0.02, respectively), but not among the controls.


The high prevalence of chronic respiratory symptoms and reduction in lung function is probably associated with high cement dust exposure. Preventive measures are needed to reduce the dust exposure.