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 Table of Contents  
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2017  |  Volume : 30  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 595-601

Respiratory and auditory disorders in a ceramic manufacturing factory(Queisna City, Menoufia Governorate)


Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Menoufia University, Menoufia, Egypt

Date of Submission01-Nov-2016
Date of Acceptance24-Dec-2016
Date of Web Publication25-Sep-2017

Correspondence Address:
Amira M Abdel Monaem
Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Menoufia University, Shebin Al-Kom, Menoufia, 32511
Egypt
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/1110-2098.215470

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  Abstract 

Objectives
The aim of this study was to evaluate respiratory and auditory disorders among workers in a ceramic manufacturing factory and their relationship with workplace environment in the same factory.
Background
The ceramic industry is one of the most hazardous industries to the respiratory system. In addition, disorders due to occupational exposure to noise are possible.
Participants and methods
A cross-sectional, comparative study was carried out on 138 workers in a ceramic manufacturing factory and 138 nonoccupationally exposed participants(control group). An environmental study for total, respirable, and differential dusts and noise was carried out. Spirometric measurements, audiometric assessment, and plain chest radiography were applied.
Results
The mean value of respirable dust level, free crystalline silica concentration, and noise levels were higher than international permissible levels. Ceramic manufacturing factory workers had a higher significant prevalence of respiratory and auditory manifestations as well as deteriorated spirometric measurements, abnormal audiometric assessment, and abnormal radiological findings.
Conclusion
Exposure to free crystalline silica concentrations more than permissible levels results in abnormal spirometric measurements and abnormal radiological findings. Continuous exposure to noise levels more than 90 dBA leads to abnormalities in audiogram in the form of threshold shifting and V-dip depression. Regular use of good-quality personal protective equipment, especially masks and ear muffs, and periodic medical examination are highly recommended.

Keywords: audiometry, ceramic, noise, silicosis, spirometry


How to cite this article:
Abdel Rasoul GM, Badr S, Allam HK, Gabr HM, Abdel Monaem AM. Respiratory and auditory disorders in a ceramic manufacturing factory(Queisna City, Menoufia Governorate). Menoufia Med J 2017;30:595-601

How to cite this URL:
Abdel Rasoul GM, Badr S, Allam HK, Gabr HM, Abdel Monaem AM. Respiratory and auditory disorders in a ceramic manufacturing factory(Queisna City, Menoufia Governorate). Menoufia Med J [serial online] 2017 [cited 2018 Dec 11];30:595-601. Available from: http://www.mmj.eg.net/text.asp?2017/30/2/595/215470


  Introduction Top


Workers of the ceramic industry are occupationally exposed to respirable crystalline silica(RCS) derived from ceramic raw materials[1]. The seriousness of health disorders related to RCS exposure is proved by the fatalities and disabling illnesses that keep on occurring after discontinuance of exposure[2].

Silicosis is the main occupational lung disease caused by inhalation of respirable dust containing crystalline silica[3]. Simple nodular chronic silicosis is the most frequently observed type of silicosis. It results from long-term exposure to low amounts of silica dust that exceed the permissible exposure level. It is recognized radiographically with multiple small nodules ranging from 1 to 10mm in diameter with upper zone predominance[4]. It may be asymptomatic or may present with exertional dyspnea and cough with sputum production[5].

There are three requirements for the diagnosis of silicosis. The first is a history of silica exposure sufficient to cause illness. The second is the presence of chest radiography that shows opacity with International Labor Office(ILO) category 1/0 or more consistent with silicosis. The third is the absence of other illnesses that mimic silicosis[6]. Health disorders other than silicosis related to RCS exposure include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease[7], lung cancer[8], silica nephrotoxicity[9], and autoimmune diseases[10].

Noise emissions occur in several steps of ceramic manufacturing[11]. Noise adversely affects cochlear hair cells through vascular, mechanical, and metabolic changes. Occupational noise-induced hearing loss results from continuous or intermittent exposure to loud noise of moderate intensity ranging from 85 to 130 dBA(A-weighted sound levels are decibel scale readings that have been adjusted to take into account the varying sensitivity of the human ear to different frequencies of sound) [12] over many years at the workplace[13].

The ceramic and antimelting materials industries represents one of the seven major industries in the Egyptian market with a large number of workers[14]; therefore, our aim was to study health disorders among workers in a ceramic manufacturing factory and the relationship with workplace environment in the same factory as an attempt for proper control and prevention of such disorders.


  Participants and Methods Top


This study was carried out in a ceramic manufacturing factory(in industrial zone, Queisna City, Menoufia Governorate, Egypt) between June 2015 and October 2016. The industrial processes in this factory include preparation and processing of the ceramic tile body, glaze preparation, glaze application lines, firing, and sorting. Across-sectional comparative study was designed to evaluate all occupationally exposed male workers(150 workers) from the expected dusty department 'preparation and processing of the ceramic tile body' in the studied factory. The response rate was 95%, with exclusion of seven workers(nonresponders). After application of exclusion criteria, which included workers who had any chronic respiratory, auditory, and liver and kidney diseases before employment in the factory, five workers were excluded. Therefore, the number of studied workers included in this study was 138.

A control group of 138male individuals were selected from relatives of the exposed individuals, who were never occupationally exposed to similar hazards neither in ceramic-processing factories nor in corresponding works; they were matched with the exposed group for age, residence, education, and income. Participants were interviewed between 7:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Each participant was subjected to questionnaire interviews as well as spirometry and audiometry measurements.

In the questionnaire interviews, detailed descriptive information was collected, including personal characteristics, occupational lifestyles, working positions, working environment, and personal hygiene. Direct observations were also made and recorded to confirm the questionnaire results. In addition, medical history of respiratory, auditory manifestations, heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, sterility, cataract, and skin rash as well as past history of diseases(e.g.,respiratory, auditory, skin, renal, hepatic disorders, diabetes mellitus, and hypertension as well as skin, chest, or eye allergies) were collected.

Spirometric measurements were performed using the MedicalEquipment Europe, PARI Medical Holding GmbH (Starnberg, Germany) Smart Pulmonary Function Test Universal Serial Bus Spirometer to determine forced vital capacity(FVC%), forced expiratory volume at the first second(FEV1%), forced expiratory ratio(FEV1/FVC%), forced expiratory flow during 25–75% of FVC(FEF25–75%), and peak expiratory flow(PEF%). The best value of three technically acceptable maneuvers was recorded and expressed as percentages of predicted values. An automatic comment that represented interpretation was obtained.

Audiometric measurements were carried out using diagnostic audiometer AS67(Danplex, Spain). Air conduction audiometric examination was performed at different frequencies(250, 500, 1000, 2000, 4000, 6000, and 8000Hz) for right and left ears separately for both exposed workers and controls. Three measures were taken at 1000Hz, at the beginning, during, and at the end of the assessment. The mean of intensities of the three measurements at 1000Hz was taken to assure the compliance of the individual.

Plain, posteroanterior, full-sized(14×14 inches) chest radiography was performed for workers with abnormal findings in spirometric measurements. It was performed on six workers/day at the Radiology Department of Menoufia University Hospital. Three radiologists interpreted the radiographic films and compared them with ILO standard films for ILO classification[15].

For dust analysis, air samples were collected using HetoPersonal Dust Sampler (New Delhi, India) which is composed of cyclone loaded with 25-mm cellulose membrane filters and a sampling pump for respirable dust measurements and without cyclone for total dust measurements. The flow rates were 2 L/Min, and sampling periods were∼8h/sample. The cyclones were fixed on workers' clothes at the breathing zone, which is the area bordered by the outside of the shoulders and from the midchest to the top of the head. The collected samples were shipped to the analytical laboratory at the National Research Center(Dokki, Cairo) for analysis using spectrophotometry of free silica levels.

Noise level was measured using Lutron SL-4001 Digital Sound Level Meter(Lutron, Princeton Junction, New Jersey, United States); this was performed at the level of workers' ears, where they usually stood during their regular work. The apparatus was set up on the fast(A) scale. Measurements were obtained twice/year by the Environmental Study and Research Institute, Elsadat City, in response to the factory requisite. Three readings were taken each time, and the mean reading was recorded.

This study was approved by the Menoufia Faculty of Medicine Committee for Medical Research Ethics. All the participants received a clear explanation of the purpose of this study and agreed to participate after signing consent forms. All personal information about the study participants were kept confidential. Approval from the factory management was also obtained.

Statistical analyses of data were conducted with statistical package for the social sciences(SPSS, version22; SPSS Inc., Chicago, Illinois, USA). Student's t-test was used for comparing means of continuous quantitative parametric variables and Mann–Whitney U-test for nonparametric variables. The χ2-test was used for categorical variables and the Fisher exact test for categorical variables when the expected value was less than 5. Spearman's correlation coefficient(r) was used to measure the association between two quantitative variables. Statistical significance was accepted at P less than 0.05 for results that were two tailed.


  Results Top


One hundred and thirty-eight male workers of a ceramic manufacturing factory and 138 matched controls were included in this study. The exposed group and controls were matched for age, sex, socioeconomic standard, educational level, residence, and marital status(P<0.05).

The environmental measurements recorded showed that the mean value of respirable dust was 3.2±0.37mg/m 3, which is higher than the permissible level of the Egyptian Environmental Law 4Decree 1095[16], and free crystalline silica dust(SiO2) was 54.0±5.3μg/m 3, which is higher than the permissible level of The Egyptian Environmental Law 4Decree 1095 [16] and threshold limit value of National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health(NIOSH)[17]. In addition, noise levels had a mean value of 90.3±4.2 dBA, which is higher than the maximal permissible limit of Egyptian Environmental Law 4Decree 1095 [16] and NIOSH [18] as shown in [Table1].
Table 1: Mean±SD of environmental measurements in the work environment of the exposed group

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The present respiratory manifestations including rhinitis, cough, expectoration, wheezes, dyspnea, chest pain, and chronic bronchitis were significantly more prevalent among exposed individuals(9.4, 24.6, 21.0, 14.5, 15.2, 8.7, and 8%, respectively) compared with controls(2.9, 7.2, 5.1, 5.8, 5.8, 2.2, and 1.4%, respectively)(P<0.05)[Figure 1].
Figure 1: Respiratory manifestations among the studied groups.

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On comparing workers with work duration of more than 10years and those with work duration of less than 10years regarding the respiratory manifestations, there was a significant higher prevalence of rhinitis, expectoration, and dyspnea among workers with work duration of more than 10years(14.9, 28.4, and 25.7%) than those with work duration of less than 10years (3.1, 12.5, and 3.1%) (P<0.05) and a nonsignificant higher prevalence of cough, wheezes, chest pain, chronic bronchitis, and asthma among workers with work duration more than 10 (25.7, 17.6, 10.8, 8.1, and 4.1%) than with work duration less than 10(23.4, 10.9, 6.2, 7.8, and 1.6%)[Figure 2].
Figure 2: Respiratory manifestations among the exposed group according to work duration in years.

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Significant deteriorated spirometric measurements were observed in exposed workers than among controls as mean values of FVC%, FEV1%, FEV1/FVC%, FEF25–75%, and PEF% were 73.8±16.5, 78.3±15.6, 82.3±6.5, 77.9±24.6, and 50.7±20.7, respectively, among exposed workers and 89.2±6.04, 89.8±5.9, 87.8±10.8, 83.1±11.3, and 72.9±16.9, respectively, among controls(P<0.05)[Table2]. This deterioration was negatively correlated at a significant level with duration of work(in years) for FVC%, FEV1%, FEF25–75%, and PEF%(P<0.05)[Table3].
Table 2: Mean±SD of spirometric measurements between the exposed group and the control group

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Table 3: Correlation between duration of work and spirometric measurements of the exposed group

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Regarding auditory manifestations among the studied groups, there was significant higher prevalence of tinnitus and ear ache among exposed workers (23.9 and 15.2%, respectively) than among controls (5.8 and 4.3%, respectively)(P<0.05). Audiometric findings revealed that 13.8% of exposed workers had hearing impairment, ranging from mild, moderate to severe degree, and 9.4% of exposed workers had V-dip depression, which represented 68.4% of hearing-impaired workers[Table4].
Table 4: Numbers and percentage distributions of the exposed group and the control group regarding audiograms findings

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Chest radiography of exposed workers with abnormal spirometric measurements(67 workers) revealed that 50(74.6%) workers had abnormal radiological findings such as small nodular opacities of different sizes and profusion[N=33(66%)], increased bronchovascular markings[N=38(76%)], emphysema[N=10(20%)], and enlarged hilar lymph node[N=5(10%)][Table5].
Table 5: Numbers and percentage distributions of radiological findings among workers with abnormal spiromertry

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  Discussion Top


In the ceramic industry, numerous health hazards exist including inhalation of airborne particulate matter, especially crystalline silica included in raw materials, and exposure to noise. The present study aimed to assess some health disorders among workers in a ceramic manufacturing factory, Queisna City, Menoufia Governorate, as well as to assess workplace environment in the same factory.

This study included 276 individuals. Among them, 138 were working in the preparation and processing department of the ceramic factory and were occupationally exposed to RCS and noise. The other 138 were selected from among relatives of the studied workers without previous occupational exposure to similar hazards.

In this study, ceramic workers were exposed to respirable dust levels(3.2±0.37mg/m 3) higher than the permissible levels(3mg/m 3) of the Egyptian Environmental Law 4Decree 1095 [16] and free crystalline silica dust(54.0±5.3μg/m 3) higher than the permissible level of the Egyptian Environmental Law 4Decree 1095 [16] and threshold limit value of NIOSH [17](50μg/m 3=0.05mg/m 3).

The ceramic industry is considered to be dusty due to the high dust levels in comparison to other levels measured in other ceramics factories for example but not limited to high mean percentage of the free silica (5.2 ± 1.01%) measured in another Egyptian ceramic factory and high mean value of respirable dust level (23.4 mg/m 3) in preparation unit in Iranian ceramic factory [19],[20].

In this study, workers were continuously exposed to noise levels reaching 90.3±4.2 dBA, which are higher than the maximal permissible limit of the Egyptian Environmental Law 4Decree 1095 [16] of 90 dBA inside the closed work production areas(8h/shift) and NIOSH [18] of 85 dBA. Similarly, studies in Iranian ceramic factories reported similar high levels of noise exposure(91.97±4.15 and 92.6 dBA)[21],[22].

The respiratory manifestations were significantly more prevalent among exposed workers than controls(P<0.05). This may be due to respiratory hazards in the factory environment, including high levels of RCS with added effect of poor ventilation and improper use of personal protective equipment.

These results agree with those reported by Dehghan etal.[20], who showed that the prevalence of all respiratory complaints(dyspnea, cough, sputum, and wheezing) was significantly higher in production units in tile and ceramic factory workers(13.1, 8.2, 10.2, 4.5, and 8.6%, respectively) than executive employees of the factory(5.9, 6.5, 5.3, 2.3, and 0%, respectively). In addition, Rondon etal. [23] and Halvani etal. [24] reported similar results in other ceramic factories. Saad etal. [25] reported that the prevalence of chronic respiratory symptoms was significantly higher among exposed workers from a ceramic factory than among the control workers.

Duration of exposure is an important determinant of diseases developed due to RCS, and therefore particular attention was paid to compare prevalence of respiratory manifestations among workers with the duration above and below the median, which was 10years.

The comparison showed a significant higher prevalence of rhinitis, expectoration, and dyspnea among workers with work duration more than 10years (14.9, 28.4, and 25.7%) than those with work duration less than 10years(3.1, 12.5, and 3.1%)(P<0.05), and the prevalence of cough, wheezes, chest pain, chronic bronchitis, and asthma was nonsignificantly higher among workers with work duration more than 10years(25.7, 17.6, 10.8, 8.1, and 4.1%) than among workers with work duration less than 10years (23.4, 10.9, 6.2, 7.8, and 1.6%)(P<0.05).

These results agree with those reported by Halvani etal. [24] who showed a significant relationship between years of employment and respiratory symptoms. Prevalences of lower respiratory, upper respiratory, and chronic obstructive symptoms were 79, 83, and 81%, respectively, among workers with more than 12years of exposure, compared with 6, 3.5, and 8.2%, respectively, among workers with eight to 12years of exposure, 9, 3.5, and 5.4%, respectively, among workers with 4–8years of exposure, and 6, 10, and 5.4%, respectively, among workers with 1–4years of exposure[24]. Therefore, it is obvious that work duration affects the development of respiratory manifestations.

On comparing exposed workers and controls regarding spirometric measurements, there were significant lower mean values of FVC%, FEV1%, FEV1/FVC%, FEF25–75%, and PEF% among exposed workers(73.8±16.5, 78.3±15.6, 82.3±6.5, 77.9±24.6 and 50.7±20.7, respectively) than among controls(89.2±6.04, 89.8±5.9, 87.8±10.8, 83.1±11.3 and 72.9±16.9, respectively)(P<0.05).

The FVC% and FEV1% mean values(73.8±16.5 and 78.3±15.6) were lower than the American Thoracic Society(ATS) [26] fifth percentile lower limit of normal, which is 80% of predicted for FVC and FEV1. Other spirometric readings in exposed workers were still within the normal values, but they were significantly lower than the mean values in controls(P<0.05). Abnormal spirometric measurements suggested occurrence of lung pathology following RCS exposure, which could take an obstructive pattern due to chronic bronchitis and emphysema, restrictive pattern due to silicosis, or a combined pattern.

These results are consistent with those reported by Dehghan etal. [20] as a significant decrease in FVC%, FEV1%, FEV1/FVC%, FEF25–75%, and PEF% between the exposed group(88.07±1144, 87.17±11.80, 91.75±6.46, 82.79±12.40 and 80.08±17.45, respectively) than between controls(92.10±12.52, 92.03±12.34, 97.56±5.63, 86.82±20.79 and 83.85±20.36, respectively) was observed.

Again, effect of work duration was studied, but this time on spirometric measurements. There was a significant negative correlation between work duration and spirometric measurements(P<0.001). In a 2-year follow-up study in five tile and ceramics factories, it was observed that FVC significantly decreased by 245ml(P=0.003) after 1year and by 431ml(P=0.002) after 2years[27]. Al-Batanony etal. [28] also reported a significant negative correlation between duration of employment and FVC% and FEV1% in a glue factory.

This study has also considered the consequences of noise exposure. It was reported that exposed workers experienced a significantly higher prevalence of tinnitus and ear ache(23.9 and 15.2%, respectively) than controls(5.8 and 4.3%, respectively)(P<0.05). High prevalence of auditory manifestations was reported as a consequence of exposure to high noise levels by Ahmed etal. [29] who showed that 10% of the total exposed participants to noise levels greater than or equal to 85dB claimed to have tinnitus, compared with none among the nonexposed. Similar results were obtained by Abdel-Rasoul etal. [30] who reported significant increased prevalence of tinnitus among workers in an iron and steel factory exposed to noise levels greater than 90 dBA.

Audiometric findings revealed that 13.8% of exposed workers had hearing impairment that ranged from mild, moderate to severe degree and 9.4% of exposed workers had V-dip depression, which represented 68.4% of hearing-impaired workers. This could be explained by high levels of noise exposure and improper use of hearing-protective equipment by workers in this factory.

These obtained results are broadly consistent with what was observed by Mostaghaci etal. [22] in a 2-year follow-up study in a tile and ceramic factory. Astandard threshold shift was observed in 2.34 and 8.83% of participants in the first and second years of follow-up in the right ear and in 3.96 and 11.35% of participants in the first and second years of follow-up in the left ear. Hearing loss was significantly higher and most commonly seen at 4000Hz in workers exposed to noise levels ranging from 75 to 92 dBA[22].

Similar results of abnormal conventional audiometric findings were observed in 29% of workers in a ceramic and tile factory, and the most frequently affected frequencies were 4000 and 6000Hz in a similar study[21].

On studying chest radiological findings among exposed workers with abnormal spirometric measurements, 50(74.6%) out of 67 workers had abnormal radiological findings such as small nodular opacities of different sizes and profusion[N=33(66%)], increased bronchovascular markings[N=38(76%)], emphysema[N=10(20%)], and enlarged hilar lymph node[N=5(10%)]. These radiological findings were concurrent with the effects of RCS on the respiratory system, including silicosis.

These results agree with those revealed by Aziz etal. [19] who reported that 66.6% of workers exposed to free silica(>5%) had statistically significant prevalent abnormal chest radiography findings in the form of small fine fibronodular changes, increased bronchovascular markings, and hyperinflated chest in comparison with 44.3% of workers exposed to free silica(<5%). The increased bronchovascular markings were reported in 7.0% of exposed workers and 2.5% of controls[19].

In present study, the small nodular opacities were mainly of P size(97.0%) and then q(3%), with profusion of 1/1(66.7%) and 1/0(33.3%). This result is in agreement with those revealed by Fahmy etal.[31], who recorded that the chest radiography of 27 silicotic workers was mainly of P size(66.7%) and then q(33.3%), with profusion of 1/1(59.3%), 1/2(25.9%), and 2/2(14.8%). In addition, Abdel-Rasoul etal.[32], in a study on glass industry workers, reported that small nodular opacities are mainly of P size(73.33%) and then q(26.67%), with profusion of 1/1(73.33%), 2/2(6.67%), and 2/3(20.0%).


  Conclusion Top


From the outcome of the present study, it is possible to conclude that exposure to high levels of RCS in the ceramic industry adversely affects the respiratory system of workers, which appears in the form of abnormal spirometric measurements and abnormal radiological findings. Continuous exposure to noise levels more than 90 dBA leads to abnormalities in audiogram in the form of threshold shifting and V-dip depression. Adequate engineering control, ventilation, and periodic medical examination are required for proper control of such conditions.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

 
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