What is brown lung disease?
Brown lung disease, or byssinosis, is a reactive airway disease that leads to airway obstruction as a result of exposure to cotton dust (brack), flax and hemp. It is a type of occupational lung disease that is more commonly seen in cotton workers, those working in flax mills and textile workers.
In the acute stages it may cause recurrent episodes of bronchiolitis (bronchioles ~ small airways) with no ongoing signs and symptoms if the person discontinues working in the environment. At this stage it is known as acute byssinosis. Like other occupational lung diseases, the permanent damage is seen 20 to 30 years after exposure where it is known as chronic byssinosis.
Causes of Byssinosis
Although byssinosis is more frequently seen in textile/fabric workers and is known to be associated with cotton, flax or hemp, the actual cause is not clearly understood. It is believed that byssinosis may be a result of exposure to endotoxins from bacteria in the cotton. It is sometimes mistaken for occupational asthma. Byssinosis does not affect every textile worker and is more frequently seen in those who are cigarette smokers.