Gautrin D, Leroyer C, L'Archevêque J, Dufour JG, Girard D, Malo JL
Airflow obstruction has been described in workers who experienced symptoms after acute exposure to chlorine. Persistent bronchial hyperresponsiveness has also been assessed, but mainly in case studies. In this cross-sectional study, we have assessed the relationship between inhalational accidents ("puffs") involving chlorine and persistent symptoms as well as hyperresponsiveness in 239 out of 255 at-risk workers (94%). No relationship was found between persistent symptoms and the exposure variables studied. Forced vital capacity (FVC) was higher in subjects who had had no symptoms after a "puff", compared with those who had experienced mild symptoms. Forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) and FVC were significantly lower in subjects who experienced more than 10 puffs with mild symptoms than in subjects who reported no symptomatic puff. The presence of bronchial hyperresponsiveness was not related to exposure, but the methacholine dose-response slope showed a tendency to increased bronchial responsiveness with increased exposure. A significant difference was shown in subjects who experienced more than 10 puffs with mild symptoms. In this group of workers, repeated exposure to chlorine with acute respiratory symptoms was associated with a slight but significant reduction in expiratory flow rates, together with an increase in bronchial responsiveness, without long-term symptoms.
Dept of Chest Medicine, Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur, Montreal, Canada.