Respiratory Symptoms in Fish Processing Workers on the Adriatic Coast of Croatia
This article describes respiratory symptoms and lung function in 98 fish processing female workers employed in a fish processing plant located on the Croatian Adriatic coast and 95 matching controls. The study included chronic and acute respiratory symptoms which developed during the shifts. Lung function measurements included forced vital capacity (FVC), one-second forced expiratory volume (FEV1) and maximal expiratory rates at 50 % and the last 25 % (FEF50, FEF25). Chronic respiratory symptoms were significantly dominant in fish processing workers compared to controls. The most common chronic symptoms were hoarseness (57.1 %), nasal catarrh (51.0 %), chronic cough (42.9 %), chronic phlegm (34.7 %), and frequent chest cold (35.7 %). Exposed smokers and nonsmokers had a similar prevalence of chronic respiratory symptoms. Acute symptoms over the work shift were high, with headache in lead (smokers: 62.5 %; nonsmokers: 56.1 %). Most of the ventilatory capacity parameters were significantly lower than predicted, FEF25 in particular, indicating obstructive changes predominantly in the smaller airways. These findings suggest that fish processing workers are prone to developing acute and chronic respiratory symptoms as well as to lung function changes. This calls for medical and technical preventive measures to be introduced in the work environment of the fish processing plant.