Background: Although recent case reports have suggested possible respiratory effects of solid toner dust inhalation, this hypothesis has not been verified by epidemiological studies. Objectives: To conduct a cross sectional study to evaluate the association between the biological indices of lung fibrosis and toner dust exposure in an occupational cohort handling solid toner dust in their work life. Methods: A total of 600 male toner workers and 212 control subjects were surveyed in terms of their subjective respiratory symptoms, pulmonary functions, and chest radiographic findings. In addition to the exposure history, the current working conditions and personal exposure levels to toner dust were also examined. Results: Although subjects handling toner for more than 20 years tended to show a higher prevalence of respiratory symptoms and minimal chest x ray abnormalities, there was no consistent relation between the exposure to toner dust and the biological responses of the respiratory system. Conclusion: Deterioration of respiratory health related to toner dust exposure is less likely to occur in current well controlled work environments, especially if the powdered toner is handled carefully. Nonetheless, it is important to collect further epidemiological evidence on the biological effects of toner dust inhalation, preferably using a longitudinal study design.
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