The prevalence of byssinosis, respiratory symptoms, acute changes of ventilatory capacity over the shift, and chronic changes of ventilatory capacity were studied in two groups of non-smoking female workers exposed to practically identical concentrations of the same type of cotton dust but for very different periods of time (16 and 4 years respectively). The prevalence of non-specific respiratory symptoms increased with the duration of exposure to cotton dust only in the subjects with byssinosis. Exposure to cotton dust caused significant reductions over the shift of the mean FEV1.0, FVC and PEF in all the groups of cotton workers examined. In byssinotics the reduction in ventilatory capacity was considerably greater in subjects with longer than in those with shorter exposure to cotton dust, while in non-byssinotics the response was approximately equal in the two groups. Inhalation of a bronchodilator at the end of the shift restored ventilatory function to its pre-shift values except in byssinotics with a longer duration of exposure to cotton dust. Chronic changes of ventilatory capacity developed only in subjects with a longer exposure to cotton dust and were common in the byssinotics.
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