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Immunological and respiratory reactions in workers exposed to organic dusts.

Zuskin E; Schachter EN; Kanceljak B; Mustajbegovic J; Witek TJ
Int Arch Occup Environ Health 1994 Dec; 66(5):317-324
A study of the effects of organic dust exposures on respiratory health and immune status was conducted on a cohort of 310 workers occupationally exposed to coffee, tea, spice, animal feed, soybean, fur, swine farm, hemp, and cotton dusts. A questionnaire was administered to obtain data on respiratory symptoms, occupational history, and smoking habits. Skin prick testing was performed using aqueous extracts of dusts collected at the worksites. Serum immunoglobulin-E (IgE) levels were measured by a direct radioimmunologic technique in selected workers. Pulmonary function testing was performed. The prevalence of positive skin prick responses to the workplace allergens was consistently higher in the cohort than in the controls except for the soybean workers. Serum IgE levels were significantly elevated in workers exposed to animal feed, tea, coffee, hemp, and cotton dusts. Workers showing positive skin prick test responses reported a higher prevalence of respiratory symptoms than those with negative test results, although the differences were not significant for all occupational groups. Representative data indicated that the highest prevalence of occupational asthma occurred in cotton workers who demonstrated positive skin responses to occupational allergens (25.0%) and the lowest in tea workers with positive results (6.6%). Over shift decreases in pulmonary function were seen in all exposed worker groups. Representative data showed that the proportion of workers with significantly decreased maximum flow rates at the last 25% of control vital capacity varied from 19.7% in animal feed workers to 70.0% in tea workers. No correlations between the lung function changes, skin prick test results, and serum IgE concentrations were detected. Total and respirable dust concentrations in the workplaces typically varied from 0.5 to 68.5 and 0.1 to 8.4mg/m3 per cubic meter, respectively. The highest levels occurred in workplaces processing hemp, soybeans, and coffee. The authors conclude that exposure to organic dusts can be associated with immunologic changes; however, these changes are not predictive of respiratory impairment.
NIOSH-Publication; NIOSH-Grant; Pulmonary-system-disorders; Organic-dusts; Epidemiology; Occupational-exposure; Immunological-tests; Pulmonary-function-tests; Industrial-hygiene; Clinical-symptoms
Medicine Mount Sinai Medical Center One Gustave L Levy Place New York, N Y 10029
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International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health
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Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York
Page last reviewed: October 5, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division