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Title: Occupational exposure to flour dust and the associated respiratory outcomes among workers at a selected flour mill in KwaZulu-Natal
Authors: Hoopdeo, Savanah 
Keywords: Flour dust;Excessive inhalation of flour dust;Respiratory health effects
Issue Date: 29-Sep-2022
Flour dust is a hazardous substance and refers to the particles that are created when cereals
or non-cereal grains are milled finely. Research shows that excessive inhalation of flour dust is
linked to various adverse respiratory health effects – however, most of this research has been
conducted internationally. This study aims to determine the associated respiratory outcomes
with occupational exposure to flour dust, further adding to the limited South African literature in
this field. The focus of this study is at a flour mill located in the Phoenix Industrial Park, Durban,
KwaZulu-Natal. This is a descriptive cross-sectional study conducted at one point in time. The
study sourced quantitative data. A sample size of 63 employees was selected from a total
population size of 70 using the simple random sampling strategy, in which the margin of error
was set at 5%.
This study sought to determine the respiratory health of employees in a flour mill, to analyse
retrospective spirometry data from medical records of employees at the flour mill, to identify
factors contributing to increased exposure to flour dust and to determine the relationship
between occupational exposure to flour dust and the associated respiratory outcomes, using
retrospective spirometry data and occupational hygiene reports.
This study has established a strong relationship between site of work (which determines the
level of exposure to flour dust) and the prevalence of respiratory issues. Retrospective
environmental monitoring reports have highlighted the departments which presented
consistently high flour dust levels, namely, the milling, packing and maintenance departments.
Unsurprisingly, these departments also reported a higher prevalence of breathing
complications, chest tightness, rhinitis, dry cough, and conjunctivitis as well as reduced mean
Forced Expiratory Value per 1 second/ Forced Vital Capacity (FEV1/FVC) values - highlighting
that the department played a role in adverse respiratory effects. The Coronavirus pandemic
increased mask usage, therefore, FEV1/FVC values were slightly better in 2020 when
compared to those of 2019. Evidence has revealed that apart from the level of exposure to
flour dust, other factors are shown to have influenced results, such as, age, Personal Protective
Equipment (PPE) awareness and training, novel Coronavirus pandemic, duration of
employment, smoking habits, mixing departments and a lack of a flour dust Occupational
Exposure Limit (OEL).
Submitted in fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Master in Health Sciences:
Environmental Health, Durban University of Technology, Durban, South Africa, 2022.
Appears in Collections:Theses and dissertations (Health Sciences)

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