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Acute and Chronic Respiratory Effects of Sodium Borate Particulate Exposures

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This study examined work-related chronic abnormality in pulmonary function and work-related acute irritant symptoms associated with exposure to borate dust in mining and processing operations. Chronic effects were examined by pulmonary function at the beginning and end of a 7-year interval. Time-specific estimates of sodium borate particulate exposures were used to estimate cumulative exposure during the study interval. Change in pulmonary function over the 7 years was found unrelated to the estimate of cumulative exposure during that interval. Exposure-response associations also were examined with respect to short-term peak exposures and incidence of five symptoms of acute respiratory irritation. Hourly measures of health outcome and continuous measures of particulate exposure were made on each subject throughout the day. Whenever a subject reported one of the irritant symptoms, a symptom intensity score was also recorded along with the approximate time of onset. The findings indicated that exposure-response relationships were present for each of the specific symptoms at several symptom intensity levels. The associations were present when exposure was estimated by both day-long and short-term (15-min) time-weighted average exposures. Associations persisted after taking account of smoking, age, and the presence of a common cold. No significant difference in response rate was found between workers exposed to different types of sodium borate dusts.

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