Occupational Asthma Reference

Wieslander G, Norback D, Edling C, Airway symptoms among house painters in relation to exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCS)--a longitudinal study, Ann Occup Hyg, 1997;41:155-166,

Keywords: Sweden, house, painter, paint, voc, biocide, asthma, br, challenge, cross sectional

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Dan Norback, Dan Norback

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The increased use of water-based paint (WBP) for indoor application during the last decade has drastically changed the exposure conditions for Swedish house painters. WBP has a lower emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) than solvent-based paint (SBP), but contains more reactive compounds, such as biocides, glycol ethers, and other high molecular solvents. The aim of this study was to compare the incidence of airway symptoms and self-reported asthma in house painters with a different degree of use of WBP and SBP. The incidence of seven general airway symptoms, and three work-related symptoms, was analysed by means of a self-administered questionnaire, in a cohort of 207 house painters followed from 1989 to 1992. Different airway symptoms were compared with clinical information obtained by a methacholine challenge test and dynamic spirometry in a selected subgroup of 44 painters. Information on the degree of use of SBP and WBP was used to estimate the total exposure to volatile organic compounds (TVOC) for each individual. In total, 175 men in the cohort worked as painters during the study period. No increase of asthma or respiratory symptoms was observed among those 50 painters with a pure exposure to WBP (estimated TVOC 1-3 mg m-3). Most painters (N = 125) had a mixed exposure to SBP and WBP, the main source of the TVOC being the limited use of SBP. WBP was perceived as less irritative than SBP, but complaints on airway irritation from WBP increased during the study period. The most pronounced increase of airway irritation in relation to both SBP and WBP, was observed among those 35 painters with the highest solvent exposure (estimated TVOC 100-380 mg m-3). An increase of respiratory symptom index and shortness of breath, in relation to estimated TVOC exposure was also observed. Selection effects were detected. Painters leaving their job during the study period had more non-specific hyper-reactivity symptoms, and more airway irritation from WBP, as compared to painters remaining at their occupation. Our study indicates that VOC emissions from SBPs may contribute to the development of respiratory symptoms and airway irritation. We found no increase of respiratory symptoms among painters exposed only to WBPs. There were, however, indications that VOC exposure from WBPs may cause airway irritation in some subjects. Because of selection effects, cross-sectional studies on respiratory symptoms in relation to occupational exposure to paint emissions may be inconclusive

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