Introduction: Results from several studies indicate that workplace exposure to welding fumes is associated with increased frequency of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in exposed workers.
Objective: To assess the prevalence and characteristics of COPD in never-smoking welders.
Methods: A cross-sectional study including 53 never-smoking male welders (aged 35–60 years) was performed, and an equal number of never-smoking male office workers were studied as a control. Evaluation of examined subjects consisted of the completion of a questionnaire, baseline spirometry, and bronchodilator reversibility testing.
Results: We found a higher prevalence of respiratory symptoms in welders, with significant differences in cough and phlegm. The majority of the chronic respiratory symptoms in welders were work-related. The mean values of all measured spirometric parameters registered with both pre and post-bronchodilator spirometry in welders were significantly lower than in office workers. The prevalence of COPD was significantly higher in welders than in office workers (15.1% versus 3.8%, p=0.041). COPD in both welders and office workers was similar in those aged <45 years.
Conclusion: Our findings support data about the relationship between workplace exposure to welding fumes and persistent airflow limitation.
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