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Immunological findings in hemp workers.

Zuskin E; Kanceljak B; Schachter EN; Witek TJ; Maayani S; Goswami S; Marom Z; Rienzi N
Environ Res 1992 Dec; 59(2):350-361
Immunological and respiratory changes were studied in 42 female employees (mean age 40) at a hemp mill in Croatia. Mean duration of exposure to hemp was 16 years, and referents were employed at a fruit juice bottling factory. The subjects were prick tested with extracts of hemp and flax dust obtained from various parts of the mill and with histamine. Serum total immunoglobulin-E (IgE) concentrations were measured. The subjects completed a respiratory symptom questionnaire. Ventilatory function was tested before and after a shift. Environmental monitoring for total and respirable hemp dust was performed. All hemp workers showed positive skin prick responses to histamine. Twenty to 64% of the hemp workers reacted to prick testing with hemp and flax dust extracts, flax extracts, and hemp dust extracts obtained from combing, carding, spinning and weaving, and softening machines. Only five to 21% of the comparisons reacted to these extracts. Fifteen hemp workers (35.7%) and two comparisons (5.0%) had elevated serum IgE concentrations. All subjects with elevated serum IgE concentrations reacted positively to one or more hemp or flax dust extracts. Hemp workers with positive skin prick responses to hemp or flax dust had significantly higher prevalences of symptoms such as chronic cough, chest tightness, asthma, nasal catarrh, and byssinosis than those not reacting. The prevalence of byssinotic symptoms was significantly correlated with the prevalence of elevated serum IgE concentrations. Hemp workers had significantly lower ventilatory capacity than did the comparisons. Baseline and over shift changes in ventilatory function were not correlated with skin test reactivity to hemp or flax dust. The total hemp dust concentration at the mill averaged 22.35 milligrams per cubic meter (mg/m3). The respirable dust concentration averaged 9.93mg/m3. The authors conclude that hemp workers show a high prevalence of skin test reactivity toward hemp and flax dust and have elevated serum IgE concentrations. The prevalence of the immunologic changes generally do not correlate with changes in ventilatory capacity.
NIOSH-Publication; NIOSH-Grant; Respiratory-system-disorders; Textile-workers; Organic-dusts; Occupational-exposure; Pulmonary-function; Industrial-hygiene; Skin-tests; Clinical-symptoms; Immunoglobulins
Medicine Mount Sinai Medical Center One Gustave L Levy Place New York, N Y 10029
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Journal Article
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Environmental Research
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Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York
Page last reviewed: February 25, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division