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Occupational Health Diseases in the Textile Industry

Occupational health hazards and respiratory problems faced by the textile workers

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The Hazards and risk involved in the textile industry are high compared to other industries and in this article a series of respiratory effects and other disease patterns among textile workers in the textile industry are detailed.

The textile industry has plenty of departments such as weaving, spinning, dyeing and printing and furthermore, processes that are essential to manufacturing finished garments or fabric. In the textile industry, health and safety are vital problems for the operating personnel. It is a kind of industry in which the profession affects the health of the workers.  These professions have plenty of associated hazards and risks. These hazards not only affect the physical health of the workers but also affect them mentally and psychologically. The diseases that arose from the textile industries are characterized by a serious decline in respiratory function.

The professionals in the textile industry are exposed to various hazards such as physical hazards, chemical hazards and biological hazards, and psychosocial hazards such as mental stress and psychological imbalance [1].In a study, it is stated that lung-related disease stands first in the row of occupational hazards in the textile industry, followed by reproduction system disorder, noise-induced hearing loss,  heart-related and vision-related diseases, Neurotoxicity and other dermatological conditions and mental stress [2].

In Europe, the textile sectors hold about 2.5 million subjects and women are considerably high in percentage than men. It is also recorded that women are affected by respiratory diseases [3]. The inhalation of organic fibres poses an equal amount of threat to human lives as that of inorganic fibres. The workers should be careful and consider their safety while being exposed to organic fibres such as cotton fibre [4]. Though, we believe that there is a huge decline in the occupational diseases for which the companies are focusing on safety.

Recent studies show that there is a significant rise in incidence across the developing society [5].  The increase in the usage of machinery to pick cotton from the fields reports that these kinds of cotton take up more amount of dust and debris in the textile industry than that hand-picked cotton [6]. Though there are many factors that are found to pose a life threat to the professionals such as poor working conditions adopted in the native country, climatic factors, etc., the sanitary measures inside the factory premises can reduce further harm to the professionals.

The professionals in the textile industry are exposed to various hazards such as physical hazards, chemical hazards and biological hazards, psychosocial hazards such as mental stress and psychological imbalance.

[7].The common risk factors identified as the lack of awareness among the workers on their occupational hazards and prolonged exposure due to unusual work timings [8]. The workers involved in the dyeing process are found to be conquered by these respiratory disorders [9]. Smokers were found to be significantly more affected by the declines in respiratory function [10].

It is highly recommended by the experts that the usage of personal protective equipment accompanied by the implantation of proper engineering controls in the production technologies could account for a genuine contribution to reducing occupational diseases further [11]. It is also found that liver diseases are highly associated with occupation in the dyeing process [13].


The workers are highly exposed to specks of dust from various materials like wool,  cotton,  hemp, flax, sisal and a few other materials which can occur during various processes that are carried out in the textile industries [3]. At the time of inhalation, these dust particles travel through our respiratory tract and enter our lung, alveoli are the last part of the respiratory system it filters the dust completely and transfers the inhaled oxygen to the bloodstream. The trapped dust particles remain to settle in the alveoli and prevent the further diffusion of oxygen to the blood cells. This issue leads to various respiratory disorders among workers. The possible disorders are listed below concerning the previous studies


Exposure to cotton dust for a high period may lead to a deadly disease called byssinosis usually known as the brown lung. This disease is indicated by difficulties in breathing, chest tightening, and wheezing.   It has been reported by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) in the year 1938 in the united states of America, that more than 30000 people are affected by byssinosis and nearly 100000 people are at a stage of high risk to get affected by this disease[1].

Due to the evaluation of types of machinery, the nature of work in the textile sector has become quite comfortable for women and they show a majority of workers in the textile sector.  By the division of the work based on gender lines, the women are subjected to be highly exposed to organic fibres than men do [3].

A   study   conducted   in the Beninese   Company   of Textiles to assess the disorders in the respiratory system of the professionals involved in the production sector, reveals that the study involved

656 characters are regularly exposed to cotton dust and 113 characters are not exposed to cotton dust. The analysis revealed that nearly  44%  of characters from both exposed and non-exposed characters have byssinosis symptoms. The exposure to cotton dust was not only observed within the processing zone but also has an adverse effect on the processing sector [5].

On the examination of the men in the blow room and card room, it was observed that those people who fall under the age group of 50-60 are the most affected by byssinosis.  A  total number of  190 participants were subjected to assess the respiratory functions. 115 subjects (60.52%) of the 190 were found to be affected by byssinosis.

Byssinosis is actually far more different from actual bronchitis, initially, it has a dry cough and the same develops to a severe stage and sometimes leads to lifetime disabilities [6]. Fig. 1. Represents the chest radiographic view of a female adult of age 56, she has been working in the textile industry for a period of 7 years. The traces of the cotton dust show the degradation of the lung [11].

Figure.1. lung affected by Byssinosis [11].


This type of disease is characterized by the degradation of the interstitial connective tissues which are present between the lung portion and the alveoli. These connective tissues give stability for the alveoli to maintain a proper fit during the inhalation of the air. A case report from a study reveals that a  subject age  66  had been exposed to cotton dust for a period of nearly 50 years and interestingly he had possessed no symptoms of byssinosis but after a severe examination organic cellulose fibres were found in the subject’s lungs and it is stated that the situation can be called as the cotton dust pneumoconiosis[4].


Persons working in the cotton dust exposure zone experienced the effect of chronic cough. chronic cough is signified as prolonged coughing for a period of 3 months. It is defined as a dry cough only from the throat and not from deep down. It causes irritation in the throat due to the inhalation of allergic cotton dust. The chronic cough differs from usual asthma but it is the progression towards asthma. It was clearly proven in a study conducted by Ahasan, Ahmed and Khan to assess the occupational exposure among the textile sector workers that almost 16.8 % of the total subjects in the exposed workers were found the symptoms of chronic dry cough, and about 2.9 % of the total subjects in the non-exposed workers were found the symptoms of the same [7]. A study conducted by A A Nafees functioning lung among the textile workers in Karachi and  Pakistan involving about 372adult males from 15 different textile mills, and the results show that nearly 7.5 % of the total subjects suffered from a chronic cough. This study states chronic cough as a state in which the subject experiences cough for consecutive 90 days a year, for at least 24 months[8].


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It was found that there is a significant difference between the breathing ability in cotton dust exposed and non-exposed workers and it was found that most of the subjects felt uncomfortable breathing [9].similarly in a study conducted by AV Hinson involved       656   exposed characters and   113 characters non exposed to cotton dust, pointed out that 7.2% of the total experienced chest constriction and 9.9 % of the total experienced breathing difficulties and the study also stated that there was some good amount of gap observed in the results between the exposed and non-exposed workers[1]. It is recorded that in a study conducted by C.H.Laraqui shortness of breath was found common among the16.5% of the total 224 exposed and 80 non-exposed individuals [10].


A study by AV Hinson defines chronic bronchitis as the regular cough accompanied by the mucus fluid from the respiratory tract for a period not less than three months. It seemed in their observation recorded

3.5% in the exposed while 0.9% in the non-exposed people [1] similarly Glindmeyer’s study reports on an average exposure of 196 µg/m3 across shift change in the Yarn manufacturing workers suffered 9.4% on total of 827 falling above 40 years of age [12].


Dimethylformamide is usually a solvent that is defined to have excellent properties and hence It is mainly used in aramid fibres which contributed a major per cent of the military fabrics. The studies show that the N, N-dimethyl amides which are commonly known to be Hallcomids are characterised by toxicity in several animal species such as mice, cats, rabbits and rats. It is clarified that dimethylformamide is accountable for toxic liver diseases and could be a carcinogenic chemical that may lead to cancer in living beings it also affects the reproducing system in women and leads to birth defects [13,14].


Any undesirable signal is termed to be noise. Theoretically, there are three classifications of noise such as continuous noise, impact noise and intermittent noise. The regulations in Tamilnadu show that 90 dBA for the continuous noise for 8- hour exposure, and 140 dB for the impact noise not exceeding 100 impacts a day. The ear consists of three major portions as shown in figure.3.1.

The external portion contains Pinna and ear canal, the middle portion contains three bones namely a hammer, anvil, and stirrup and the innermost portion called cochlea consists of numerous tiny oscillating hair cells. The cochlea transmits the signal to the brain in correspondence with the sound received. It is evident that when a person is exposed to high noise continuously the hair cells in the cochlea begin to stop responding to the sound frequency further.

The stationary cochlea sends no signal to the brain upon receiving a sound signal. This is known to be an irreparable disease commonly known to be Noise-induced hearing loss. A study reveals that there is a high noise level in the textile processing sections that could lead to lifetime hearing loss which could be accompanied by tinnitus in the early stages characterised by a temporary ringing sound in the ears.  Noise in various sections of the textile industry ranges from 40 dBA to 100 dBA. table 1 describes the noise levels recorded in various sections in a  textile company in Lagos Metropolis. This study involved

204 subjects including the non-exposed areas such as the administration block. The audiometric test results of these subjects clearly indicate that there is a significant amount of threshold shift is observed among the workers [15,16,17].

Range Average
Weaving 94-100 97
Spinning 94-96 95
Blowing 85-89 87
Carding 85-87 86
Engineering and maintenance 85-89 87
Cone- winding 85-91 90
Washing and bleaching 83-85 84
Dyeing and Printing 80-85 83
Packing and storage 64-75 68
Administration 40-60 56

Table.1. Noise levels of various sections in the textile industry [15].

Figure.3.1. Anatomy of the ear [18].


All the subjects in this study are explored in detail and they presented at least one symptom which is considered symptomatic in this study. It is revealed that among all the diseases byssinosis is considered to be the most vulnerable to human health.

Women are most affected by these diseases than men. The worst part observed that no proper preventive measures are taken by the management such as lack of awareness programs and lack of the required facilities, it has its main source from poor funding from the management. In most cases, professionals are not told about their occupational hazards and that may stand as a major reason for their exposure to hazardous particles, it is believed that the awareness of health conditions could have possibly reduced the occurrence of these diseases.

Some cases from the early 19th century report that the doctors weren’t able to diagnose the byssinosis the reason is stated as they were not able to differentiate between bronchitis and byssinosis. This paper reminds the management of the severity of occupational diseases in the textile sector. On the whole, the impacts of these diseases are not only observed among the exposed subjects but also among the non-exposed individuals, this reveals the polluted environment surrounding the textile sectors.


This study permitted us to estimate the histological superiority of respiratory disorders such as Byssinosis, chronic cough, discomfort in breathing, diffuse lung disease, chronic bronchitis, toxic liver diseases and noise-induced hearing loss. Throughout the study, it is evident that the superiority of these diseases was found significantly higher than those of the non-exposed individuals.

The superiority of these diseases varies in the sector according to typical climatic conditions, the nature of the working environment, gender, and age. This study has not been able to encompass the environmental parameters in the textile sector such as the humidity level, the quantity of dust present, and temperature. This review leads to reconsideration in the usage of effective personal protective equipment and also the implementation of sound technical and administrative controls against the sources of these diseases


  1. “Safety and health issues in workers in clothing and textile industries”, Neelam Singh Ph. D Scholar  (Home  Science  Dept.) Chaudhary Charan Singh University, Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, India.IJHS 2016; 2(3): 38-40.
  2. “Occupational health hazards in textiles industry”, SUDHA BABEL Department of Textiles and Apparel Designing, College of Home Science, Maharana Pratap University of Agriculture and Technology, UDAIPUR (RAJASTHAN) INDIA.AJHS   Volume   9   | Issue 1 | June, 2014 | 267-271
  3. Occupational safety and health in the textiles sector, Occupational safety and health in the textiles sector.
  4. Diffuse lung disease caused by cotton fibre inhalation but distinct from byssinosis, H Kobayashi, S Kanoh, K Motoyoshi, S Aida, Thorax 2004;59:1095–1097.           DOI: 10.1136/thx.2003.014027
  5. Cotton Dust Exposure and Respiratory Disorders among Textile Workers at a Textile Company in the Southern Part of Benin, Antoine Vikkey Hinson, Virgil K. Lokossou, Vivi Schlünssen, GildasAgodokpessi, Torben Sigsgaard and Benjamin Fayomi
  6. Byssinosis in cotton and other textile workers, R.S.F.schilling, M.D.Lond, M.R.C.P. D.P.H..D.I.H.
  7. occupational   exposure   and   Respiratory Illness Symptoms Among Textile Industry Workers in a Developing Country, M. R. Ahasan, Sk. A. Ahmad, and T. P. Khan
  8. Nafees, A.A.; Fatmi, Z.; Kadir, M.M.; Sathiakumar, N. Pattern and predictors for respiratory illnesses and symptoms and lung function among textile workers in Karachi, Pakistan. Occup. Environ. Med. 2013, 70, 99–
  9. Zuskin, E.; Mustajbegovic, J.; Kern, J.; Doko-Jelani, J.; Pavicic,  F.  Respiratory findings in textile workers employed in dyeing and cotton. Arch. Hig. Rada Toksikol. 1996,
  10. Laraqui, C.H.; Rahhali, A.; Tripodi, D.; Curtes, J.P.; Verger, C.; Caubet, C. Byssinose et asthmeprofessionnels chez les ouvriers exposés aux poussières de coton. Rev. Fr. Allergol. Immunol. Clin. 2002, 42, 133–141.
  11. R.Steinberg,J.Hannakand.Balakrishnan,http s://www.onlineclothingstudy.com/2013/07/safe ty-and-hazardous-atmosphere-in.html
  12. Glindmeyer, H.W.; Lefante, J.J.; Jones, R.N.; Rando, R.J.; Weill, H. Cotton dust and across-shift change in FEV 1 as preditors of annual change in FEV1. Am. J. Respir. Crit. Care Med. 1994, 149, 584–590.
  13. Redlich, C.A., Beckett, W.S., Sparer, J., Barwick, K.W., Riely, C.A., Miller, H., Sigal, S.L., Shalat, S.L. and Cullen, M.R. (1988). Liver disease is associated with occupational exposure to the solvent dimethylformamide. Ann. Internat. Med., 108 (5) : 680-686.
  14. JOSEPH  S.  WILES  &  JOHN  K. NARCISSE (1971) The Acute Toxicity of Dimethylamides in Several Animal Species, American Industrial Hygiene Association Journal,          32:8,          539-545,          DOI: 10.1080/0002889718506502


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