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1.  Clinical investigation of an outbreak of alveolitis and asthma in a car engine manufacturing plant 
Thorax  2007;62(11):981-990.
Exposure to metal working fluid (MWF) has been associated with outbreaks of extrinsic allergic alveolitis (EAA) in the USA, with bacterial contamination of MWF being a possible cause, but is uncommon in the UK. Twelve workers developed EAA in a car engine manufacturing plant in the UK, presenting clinically between December 2003 and May 2004. This paper reports the subsequent epidemiological investigation of the whole workforce. The study had three aims: (1) to measure the extent of the outbreak by identifying other workers who may have developed EAA or other work‐related respiratory diseases; (2) to provide case detection so that those affected could be treated; and (3) to provide epidemiological data to identify the cause of the outbreak.
The outbreak was investigated in a three‐phase cross‐sectional survey of the workforce. In phase I a respiratory screening questionnaire was completed by 808/836 workers (96.7%) in May 2004. In phase II 481 employees with at least one respiratory symptom on screening and 50 asymptomatic controls were invited for investigation at the factory in June 2004. This included a questionnaire, spirometry and clinical opinion. 454/481 (94.4%) responded and 48/50 (96%) controls. Workers were identified who needed further investigation and serial measurements of peak expiratory flow (PEF). In phase III 162 employees were seen at the Birmingham Occupational Lung Disease clinic. 198 employees returned PEF records, including 141 of the 162 who attended for clinical investigation. Case definitions for diagnoses were agreed.
87 workers (10.4% of the workforce) met case definitions for occupational lung disease, comprising EAA (n = 19), occupational asthma (n = 74) and humidifier fever (n = 7). 12 workers had more than one diagnosis. The peak onset of work‐related breathlessness was Spring 2003. The proportion of workers affected was higher for those using MWF from a large sump (27.3%) than for those working all over the manufacturing area (7.9%) (OR = 4.39, p<0.001). Two workers had positive specific provocation tests to the used but not the unused MWF solution.
Extensive investigation of the outbreak of EAA detected a large number of affected workers, not only with EAA but also occupational asthma. This is the largest reported outbreak in Europe. Mist from used MWF is the likely cause. In workplaces using MWF there is a need to carry out risk assessments, to monitor and maintain fluid quality, to control mist and to carry out respiratory health surveillance.
PMCID: PMC2117138  PMID: 17504818
2.  FEV1 decline in occupational asthma 
Thorax  2006;61(9):751-755.
In occupational asthma continued workplace exposure to the causative agent is associated with a poor prognosis. However, there is little information available on how rapidly lung function declines in those who continue to be exposed, nor how removal from exposure affects lung function.
Forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) was studied in 156 consecutive subjects with occupational asthma (87% due to low molecular weight agents) using simple regression analyses to provide estimates of the decline in FEV1 before and after removal from exposure.
In 90 subjects in whom FEV1 measurements had been performed for at least 1 year before removal from exposure (median 2.9 years), the mean (SE) rate of decline in FEV1 was 100.9 (17.7) ml/year. One year after removal from exposure FEV1 had improved by a mean (SE) of 12.3 (31.6) ml. The mean (SE) decline in FEV1 was 26.6 (18.0) ml/year in 86 subjects in whom measurements were made for at least 1 year (median 2.6 years) following removal from exposure. The decline in FEV1 was not significantly worse in current smokers than in never smokers, nor was it affected by the use of inhaled corticosteroids.
FEV1 declines rapidly in exposed workers with occupational asthma. Following removal from exposure, FEV1 continued to decline but at a slower rate, similar to the rate of decline in healthy adults.
PMCID: PMC2117105  PMID: 16670172
occupational health; asthma; lung function; exposure
3.  Death due to air embolism during sexual intercourse in the puerperium. 
Postgraduate Medical Journal  1998;74(876):612-613.
We describe the cases of two young women who died due to air embolism during sexual intercourse early in the puerperium.
PMCID: PMC2361003  PMID: 10211360

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