IRSST - Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail

The impact of environmental contamination on the health of sawmill workers


This study analyzed the biological and microbial quality of the air in 17 Quebec sawmills employing more then 1 200 workers and processing various types of wood, and evaluated potential respiratory hazards faced by workers. The concentration of airborne microbial contaminants, inhalable dusts and endotoxins were measured at each stage of production (debarking, sawing, planing and sorting). The highest concentrations of moulds, endotoxins and bacteria were observed at debarking stations, and the highest dust concentrations at planing stations. Penicillium sp. was the most common mould observed. Workers’ respiratory function was normal and most observed symptoms were smoking-related. The prevalence of positive skin reactions to spruce was higher among workers from spruce sawmills than among other workers. In conclusion, no respiratory problems were observed among workers in Quebec sawmills, despite the high concentrations of biological contaminants found in the workplace air. Nevertheless, some workers with circulating antibodies or demonstrated skin allergies may be at risk of developing asthma or allergic alveolitis.

Additional Information

Type: Project
Number: 0094-1330
Status: Completed
Year of completion: 1999
  • Yvon Cormier (Centre de recherche de l'IUCPQ)
  • Caroline Duchaine (Centre de recherche de l'IUCPQ)
  • Anne Mériaux (Centre de recherche de l'IUCPQ)
  • Gaétane Racine-Bédard (Centre de recherche de l'IUCPQ)
  • Serge Simard (Centre de recherche de l'IUCPQ)