Evaluating the Relationship of Inhalable Particulate Exposures by Occupational Categories, in Relation to Lung Function, Among Kentucky State Fair Patrons

Devon T. Collins BS, CHES, University of Kentucky


Objective: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the relationship between occupational inhalable exposures and the presence of respiratory impairment, and to identify higher risk probable exposed occupations, compared to low risk unexposed occupations.

Methods: In August 2015, data on 623 Kentucky State Fair patrons were collected via self-reported survey and lung function test using the Vitalograph COPD-6®. Verbal consent was obtained and participants completed questions on demographics, occupational history, personal protective equipment use, and medical and smoking history. Analysis was performed by comparative Chi-Square, linear, and logistic regression. Obstructed impairment was classified by an FEV1/FEV6 <0.70, and restricted impairment was classified by FEV1/FEV6 ≥0.70 and FEV1<0.80. Occupational categories were defined in crude analysis by job tasks, and final models were collapsed into 'Blue Collar' and 'White Collar' jobs. Statistical significance was considered if p<0.05.

Results: The participants had a mean age of 51.9 years, 62.7% were female, 60.8% were currently employed, and 40.5% reported being ever-smokers. Of the total sample 5.1% had lung obstruction and 24.9% had restricted lung function. The occupations of Construction, Manufacturing/Production, and Protective Services reached statistical significance with crude logistic regression (p<0.01). There was a statistically significant crude odds ratio of those working in a dusty environment for ≥1 year, having 1.65 (95% C.I.=1.15-2.36) times the odds of screening into lung obstruction or restriction, compared to those reporting no occupational exposure. For final logistic regression analysis, there was statistical significance in restrictive lung impairment versus neither condition with those classified as Blue Collar Laborers, age groups 40-59 and ≥ 60 years, and ≥10 total pack years smoked. For obstructive impairment versus neither condition, only a suggestive relationship was found for variable occupational exposure to dusts.

Conclusion: These findings suggest that occupationally-related particulate exposure could be contributing to lower lung function in this sample. Data in this analysis appears 4 to be more suggestive of the relationships between restrictive lung impairment versus obstructive impairment. This could be a limitation of the sample size and power.