Ambient particulate air pollution has been linked to cardiovascular disease. Occupational particle exposure levels may be several times higher than ambient levels but has been less studied.
The authors investigated the association between occupational exposure to particles and the incidence of ischaemic heart disease (IHD).
The cohort included all manual workers in the Swedish national census of 1980 with information on demographic data and occupation. Information on hospital admissions for acute myocardial infarction or other IHDs and cause of death were obtained from nation-wide registers. A job-exposure matrix for exposure to small (1 µm) particles was developed. HRs were calculated with Cox regression with adjustment for sex, age, socioeconomic group and urban/rural residential area.
Exposure to small particles was associated with an increased HR for acute myocardial infarction of 1.12 (95% CI 1.09 to 1.15), and HR for exposure to large particles was 1.14 (95% CI 1.10 to 1.18). The association was somewhat stronger for workers exposed to small particles for more than 5 years, 1.21 (95% CI 1.11 to 1.31), but no trend with exposure intensity was found. The risk associated with exposure to small particles was higher among women than among men, 1.30 (95% CI 1.12 to 1.51) and 1.10 (95% CI 1.07 to 1.14), respectively. Findings were essentially similar for other IHDs.
This explorative study gives some support to the hypothesis that occupational exposure to particles increases the risk of acute myocardial infarction and other IHD. The findings must be interpreted cautiously due to lack of smoking data.