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Risk of olfactory dysfunction of the workers in the automobile repair, printing, shoemaking and plating industries in Korea: a cross-sectional study
  1. Soo-Jin Lee1,
  2. Eun-Mi Kim2,
  3. Seok-Hyun Cho3,
  4. Jaechul Song4,
  5. Tae-Won Jang4,
  6. Mi-Young Lee5
  1. 1 Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Hanyang University Medical Center, Seoul, Korea
  2. 2 Graduate School of Public Health, Hanyang University, Seoul, Korea
  3. 3 Department of Otolaryngology, Hanyang University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea
  4. 4 Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Hanyang University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea
  5. 5 Occupational Health Research Bureau, Occupational Safety and Research Institute, Ulsan, Korea
  1. Correspondence to Dr Tae-Won Jang; om1024{at}


Objectives The present study was performed to investigate the prevalence of olfactory dysfunction in workers exposed to hazardous substances in a variety of occupations in Korea.

Methods We designed a cross-sectional study. The exposed group (n=296) consisted of Korean workers in the automobile repair, printing, shoemaking and plating industries and was compared with office workers (non-exposed group, n=99). A self-report questionnaire was administered to the subjects for demographic characteristics. In addition, olfactory function was evaluated using the Korean version of Sniffin’s Stick (KVSS) I and II test, which has been reported to be valid and reliable in Korean subjects. KVSS I score ≥7 or KVSS II score ≥30 was classified as normal, KVSS I score <7 or KVSS II score <30 was classified as oflactory dysfunction. The statistical analyses were performed with olfactory dysfunction as a dependent variable to calculate prevalence ratio (PR) of the exposed group.

Results The prevalence of olfactory dysfunction was 21.2% in office, 45.1% in automobile repair, 69.7% in printing and 88.9% in shoemaking and plating workers. The adjusted PR was highest in plating (3.589, 95% CI 1.957 to 6.583), followed by shoemaking (3.136, 95% CI 1.763 to 5.579), printing (2.669, 95% CI 1.610 to 4.424) and automobile repair (1.914, 95% CI 1.105 to 3.317) workers.

Conclusions In comparison with office workers, the prevalence of olfactory dysfunction and the PR of olfactory dysfunction were very high in the four occupational groups. This finding could be an important basis for establishing the olfactory dysfunction prevention policy for workers who are exposed to hazardous substances or work in high-risk occupations.

  • occupation
  • olfactory
  • prevalence
  • prevalence ratio

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  • Contributors S-JL Lee drafted the manuscript. E-MK Kim contributed to the questionnaire survey. S-HC Cho performed the olfactory function testing. JS contributed to the study design and interpretation of the manuscript. T-WJ contributed to the study design, statistical analysis, and revision of the manuscript. M-YL contributed to the statistical analysis and revision of manuscript.

  • Funding This research was supported by the Occupational Safety and Health Research Institute of Korea.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval Institutional Review Board of Hanyang University.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement No additional data available.

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