The role of workplace exposure in sawmills is less well known in spite of a number of cross-sectional studies. Most studies show associations of respiratory effects with dust exposure but without further characterization of the aerosol. In a longitudinal study including one sawmill no significant association was found between wood dust exposure and change in lung function during the study period. In the furniture industry, however, an association between wood dust exposure, especially pine, and asthma has been found. This indicates the importance of examining whether a difference exists in the effect of exposure to the various species, pine and spruce.
The aim of the study is therefore to study if current exposure of sawmill workers has untoward respiratory and inflammatory effects. To achieve this goal we characterize the exposure of sawmill workers to wood dust from different species (mainly spruce and pine in Norway), groups and species of microorganisms, terpenes and resin acids. Moreover we follow all the employees in the participating sawmills for four years with yearly health examinations focusing on lung function and the development of inflammatory effects and symptoms of the lower and upper airways. Finally, the association between exposure and health effects will be investigated.
By studying determinants of exposure to relevant agents we aim to assist the industry in their work with preventive measures.