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The impact of occupational dust and gas/fume exposure on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in developing countries has not been quantified. We examined the relationship between past dust and fume exposure and prevalence of COPD and respiratory symptoms in a cross-sectional analysis of a large Chinese population sample. Participants in the Guangzhou Biobank Cohort Study (n = 8216; 27.3% men, mean age 61.9 ± 6.8 years) had spirometry and a structured interview including exposures, symptoms, and lifestyle. Self-reported intensity and duration of dust and gas/fume exposure was used to derive cumulative exposure. COPD was diagnosed from spirometry using lower limit of normal based on prediction equations. COPD was associated with high exposure to dust or gas/fume (exposed: 87/1206 v non-exposed: 191/3853; adjusted odds ratio: 1.41; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.06, 1.87) with no evidence of effect modification by smoking. Respiratory symptoms were associated with exposures to dust and gas/fume, with adjusted odds ratios for chronic cough/phlegm of 1.57 (1.13, 2.17) and 1.39 (1.20, 1.60) for dyspnoea. The overall population attributable fraction for COPD due to occupational exposure was 10.4% (95% CI -0.9%, 19.5%). Occupational dust and gas/fume exposure is associated with an increased prevalence of COPD in this Chinese sample, independent of smoking. The population attributable fraction in Chinese is similar to that in Western populations.

Original publication




Journal article


Respir Med

Publication Date





1421 - 1428


China, Cohort Studies, Cross-Sectional Studies, Dust, Female, Forced Expiratory Volume, Gases, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Occupational Diseases, Occupational Exposure, Prevalence, Prognosis, Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive, Vital Capacity