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The effect of occupational exposure to local powdered tobacco (snuff) on pulmonary function was studied. Snuff industry workers in Onitsha and Enugu markets were studied and compared with age-, weight-, and height-matched control not exposed to any known air pollutant. The pulmonary indices studied include; forced vital capacity (FVC), forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) and ratio of FEV1/FVC as percentage using a vitalograph spirometer and Peak Expiratory Flow Rate (PEFR), using a mini Wright Peak Expiratory Flow Meter. The respiratory and non-respiratory symptoms frequently associated with these workers were also analyzed and dust sampling in both test and control environments was also done. The mean anthropometric parameters, (age, height and body weight) between the two groups were not statistically different. The results obtained showed statistically significant impairment of lung function of workers chronically exposed to snuff. FVC, FEV1 and PEFR in the exposed (test) subjects were significantly decreased in comparison with the control subjects (P<0.05). However, the mean value of FEV1/FVC (%) of the test
subjects was 86.8% which was within the normal range and was not significantly different from control. This signified that the test subjects had restrictive pattern of lung function defect. All respiratory symptoms, such as cough, chest tightness had a higher prevalence in test subjects than their control group. The lung function indices of snuff-producing workers proportionately decreased with their length of exposure in the industry. The respirable dust level in the vicinity (indoor) of the snuff-workers (1.11±0.35mg/m3) was significantly higher than in the control environment,[(0.37±0.086mg/m3) (P<0.001)]. Although it was not possible to determine all the factors that may be responsible for lung function impairment, the dust sampling result showed that chronic exposure to Nigerian snuff (powered tobacco) dust impairs lung function and the effect is progressive with time.
Key words: Lung function, Snuff, Occupation, Symptoms