There is no consensus at the present time about the effect of welding on lung function decline. This study compared lung function decline between blue-collar workers exposed and not exposed to welding fumes in a French longitudinal cohort of 21,238 subjects aged 37 to 52 years at inclusion.
Medical data, occupation, sector of activity, and spirometry were recorded twice by occupational physicians in 1990 and 1995. A job-exposure matrix was used to identify 503 male blue-collar workers exposed to welding fumes and 709 control subjects and to define the weekly duration of exposure to welding fumes.
Baseline lung function parameters were higher in workers exposed to welding fumes than in control subjects. After a 5-year follow-up, welding-fume exposure was associated with a nonsignificant decline in FVC (P = .06) and FEV1 (P = .07) after adjustment for age, pack-years, BMI, and baseline value of the parameter. A significant accelerated decline in FEV1 (P = .046) was also observed in never smokers exposed to welding fumes. An “exposure-response” relationship was observed between FEV1 decline and weekly duration of exposure to welding fumes in nonsmokers but not in smokers.
Blue-collar workers exposed to welding fumes showed accelerated decline in lung function, which, in nonsmokers, was related to weekly duration of exposure.