Longitudinal Analysis of Pulmonary Dysfunction in the Initial Years of Employment in the Grain Industry

Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health
  • Dosman, James A.;
  • Olfert, Sandra M.;
  • Pahwa, Punam


The negative health effects of exposure to grain dust have previously been examined, but few studies have observed the effects on newly hired employees. Young grain workers are of interest because changes in pulmonary function may occur after a short duration of employment, and because older grain workers may represent a survivor population. The New Grain Workers Study (NGWS), a longitudinal study of 299 newly hired male grain industry workers, was conducted between 1980 and 1985. The objectives were to determine the effects of employment in the grain industry on pulmonary function. Pre-employment physical examinations and pulmonary function tests were conducted on subjects at the Division of Respiratory Medicine, Department of Medicine, Royal University Hospital, University of Saskatchewan. The Grain Dust Medical Surveillance Program (GDMSP) was a Labour Canada program that began in 1978. All subjects were grain workers employed in the grain industry in Saskatchewan. All subjects completed a respiratory symptoms questionnaire and underwent pulmonary function testing. Baseline observations were recorded every three years between 1978 and 1993. Data were available on 2184 grain workers. Generalized estimating equations were used to fit marginal and transitional multivariable regression models to determine the effects of grain dust exposure on pulmonary function. Marginal and transitional models were then compared. Height, exposure weeks, and previous FVC were predictive of FVC in the NGWS, while exposure weeks and previous FEV1 were predictive of FEV1. These models, as well as a transitional regression model built using the GDMSP data, were used to compute predicted mean annual decline in pulmonary function. Non-smoking grain workers in the NGWS had the highest pulmonary function test values, but also had the greatest predicted annual decline in pulmonary function. Ever-smoking grain workers in the GDMSP had the lowest pulmonary function test values. Non-smoking grain workers in the GDMSP had the least predicted annual decline in pulmonary function.

Full article can be found in: Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health
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