BACKGROUND: Inhalation of cotton-based particulate has been associated with respiratory symptoms and overt lung disease related to endotoxin exposure in some studies. This cross-sectional study measures personal exposure to inhalable dust and endotoxin in the textile industry of Nepal.
METHODS: This study was conducted in four sectors (garment making, carpet making, weaving, and recycling) of the textile industry in Kathmandu, Nepal. Personal exposure to inhalable dust and airborne endotoxin was measured during a full-shift for 114 workers.
RESULTS: Personal exposure to cotton dust was generally low [geometric mean (GM) 0.81 mg m(-3)) compared to the UK workplace exposure limit (WEL) (2.5 mg m(-3)) but with nearly 18% (n = 20) of the workers sampled exceeding the limit. Exposures were lowest in the weaving and the garment sector (GM = 0.30 mg m(-3)), higher in the carpet sector (GM = 1.16 mg m(-3)), and highest in the recycling sector (GM = 3.36 mg m(-3)). Endotoxin exposures were high with the overall data (GM = 2160 EU m(-3)) being more than 20-fold higher than the Dutch health-based guidance value of 90 EU m(-3). The highest exposures were in the recycling sector (GM = 5110 EU m(-3)) and the weaving sector (GM = 2440 EU m(-3)) with lower levels in the garment sector (GM = 157 EU m(-3)). The highest endotoxin concentrations expressed as endotoxin units per milligram inhalable dust were found in the weaving sector (GM = 165 EU mg(-1)). There was a statistically significant correlation between inhalable dust concentrations and endotoxin concentrations (r = 0.37; P < 0.001) and this was particularly strong in the garment (r = 0.82; P = 0.004) and the carpet sector (r = 0.81; P < 0.001).
CONCLUSIONS: Inhalable dust exposures measured in the weaving, carpet, and garment sectors were all below the UK WEL for cotton dust. A significant proportion of the measurements from the cotton recycling sector were above the UK WEL suggesting that better hygiene control measures are required. Airborne endotoxin concentrations in all sectors were found to exceed the Dutch health-based guidance limit of 90 EU m(-3) and may be associated with respiratory health effects.
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