A study was carried out of 91 men in 10 ferrous foundries in England. The 509 men exposed to chemical binders in foundry work were more likely to complain of chest tightness (16.1%) that was worse on working days than the 402 non-exposed men (7.7%) from the comparison group; an odds ratio of 2.32 (95% CI 1.50-3.61) was found for chest tightness having allowed for confounders. Of the 170 exposed men complaining of at least one work-related symptom, 144 underwent histamine challenge testing; 20 (3.9% of exposed men) were positive. In the non-exposed group, only 8 (2.0% of the unexposed group) were positive. No difference was seen between exposure groups in the small number of cases diagnosed as occupational asthma. Exposures to isocynates and amines were below detection levels in all foundries, but aldehydes were detected in 2 and furfuryl alcohol in 6. Tracing of ex-employees was difficult, but gave no evidence of major differences in health between those who had left exposed or other jobs. The most notable finding was the low reactivity in the histamine challenge test of workers with symptoms from both the exposed and non-exposed cohorts. Although there was only weak evidence of respiratory ill health associated with foundry work in this study, the potential exists where exposures to chemical exposures are high.
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