A multi-faceted study was conducted by Dr. Asaad Nafees, Assistant Professor and Department of Community Health Sciences at the Aga Khan University (AKU) in Pakistan. It is the largest to determine the effectiveness of a simple intervention in reducing cotton dust-related respiratory health effects on textile workers in Pakistan. The MultiTex RCT study, in collaboration with the National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI) and Imperial College London, marked a crucial step towards revolutionising occupational health interventions for textile workers in Pakistan and other Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs).
According to Aga Khan University (AKU), persistent cotton dust exposure leads to developing a disease called byssinosis, a disease prevalent among textile workers in LMICs due to limited access to occupational health and safety measures. With an initial cohort of 2031 workers from 38 textile mills in Karachi, the study tested a low-cost intervention package to ascertain if it would mitigate the adverse respiratory effects experienced by these workers. The interventions comprised training in occupational health for all workers and managers, regular refresher sessions, formation of workplace committees to enforce a health and safety plan including wet mopping and safe disposal of cotton dust, and provision of face masks. The results showed clear improvements in respiratory symptoms and lung function of the textile workers.
Funded by the Welcome Trust for three years, the findings of this important research can be applied to the larger textile landscape, helping workers in Pakistan and elsewhere stay safe and minimise their disease burden.