Byssinosis and lung health among cotton textile workers: Baseline findings of the multiTex trial in Karachi, Pakistan

Document Type



Community Health Sciences; Pulmonary and Critical Care


Objectives: To assess the association of exposure in cotton mills in Karachi with different definitions of byssinosis and lung health.
Methods: This cross-sectional survey took place between June 2019 and October 2020 among 2031 workers across 38 spinning and weaving mills in Karachi. Data collection involved questionnaire-based interviews, spirometry and measurements of personal exposure to inhalable dust. Byssinosis was defined using both WHO symptoms-based (work-related chest tightness), and Schilling's criteria (symptoms with decreased forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1). Values of FEV1/forced vital capacity ratio below the lower limit of normality on postbronchodilator test were considered as 'chronic airflow obstruction' (CAO).
Results: 56% of participants had at least one respiratory symptom, while 43% had shortness of breath (grade 1). Prevalence of byssinosis according to WHO criteria was 3%, it was 4% according to Schilling's criteria, and likewise for CAO. We found low inhalable dust exposures (geometric mean: 610 µg/m3). Cigarette smoking (≥3.5 pack-years), increasing duration of employment in the textile industry and work in the spinning section were important factors found to be associated with several respiratory outcomes.
Conclusion: We found a high prevalence of respiratory symptoms but a low prevalence of byssinosis. Most respiratory outcomes were associated with duration of employment in textile industry. We have discussed the challenges faced in using current, standard guidelines for identifying byssinosis

Publication (Name of Journal)

Occupational and environmental medicine