In a study of 75 workers employed in a tobacco factory producing cheroots we measured cellular contents of tear fluid, redness of eyes, discomfort, total (0–5.7 mg/m3) and respirable dust in the breathing zone and total ambient dust by stationary sampling (0.08–1.0 mg/m3). A matched group of 50 office workers in a telephone company (total ambient dust concentration between 0.08–0.13 mg/m3) was similarly examined as referents. We found a difference between the two companies with regard to cell counts, with tobacco workers having the largest numbers except for lymphocytes. Among tobacco workers we furthermore found that the number of cuboidal and columnar epithelial cells increased during the day. The increase of cuboidal cells, however, occurred mainly in a small group of tobacco workers exposed to the highest concentrations of tobacco dust (mean =1.26 mg/m3). No difference in the sensation of eye irritation was found between companies, but increased irritation in the morning was associated with increased exposure to total dust during the work-shift among tobacco workers. A dose-dependent difference in photographically measured eye redness was found among the tobacco workers. It could not be explained by differences in tobacco smoking, sex, age, sleeping habits or use of glasses. Irritation of lips and upper airways as reported by questionnaire were more common in tobacco workers than in referents. In conclusion the tobacco workers, more often than the referents, had complaints and objective changes in the mucous membranes of the eyes. These may be related to tobacco dust exposure.
International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, 1989, Vol 61, Issue 8, p. 519-525
red eyes; tear fluid; polymorphonuclear leukocytes; conjunctiva; epithelium