NIOSHTIC-2 Publications Search

Work-related asthma in a baker.

Tumpowsky C; Backus V
SENSOR Occup Lung Dis Bull 1999 Jan; :1-2
Previous issues of the Bulletin have provided information on specific respiratory hazards known to cause asthma. In this issue, we present a case of baker's asthma, an occupational disease recognized since the Roman age. SENSOR programs in Michigan and California as well as our own in Massachusetts, have received case reports of baker's asthma. In Massachusetts, eight cases of baker's asthma have been reported since 1993. The California SENSOR program has undertaken investigations of bagel bakeries to measure levels of wheat flour and cinnamon, both known asthmagens. This information will contribute to the establishment of a recommended guideline, known as a threshold limit value (TLV), for airborne exposure to flour dust in the workplace. Currently, there is no such guideline. Case Description: A 32 year old Brazilian-born immigrant began working three years ago as a baker in a small bakery shop in the greater Boston area. He developed symptoms of asthma approximately one year ago. Because he worked seven days per week, he did not obtain any treatment for the first six months. He was eventually treated at an emergency room for sinusitis and given a beta-agonist inhaler. Over time, his symptoms, including nasal congestion and stuffiness, wheezing, and chest pain worsened. He needed his inhaler upon awakening and several more times during the day. At work he was plagued by a constant rhinorrhea. He noted that the bakery where he worked has considerable flour dust and minimal ventilation, especially during the heating season when the windows cannot be opened. These conditions precipitated his first visit to the emergency room last winter and this year led to the current evaluation. This case underscores the importance of early recognition of occupational asthma and cessation of exposure to asthma causing agents. Fortunately, this worker's health improved after he left his job. Often, asthma symptoms persist and may worsen despite removal from exposure. Unfortunately, this worker developed a serious occupational disease which resulted in his losing his job. This case highlights the human and economic burden that can be caused by occupational disease and the need for primary prevention.
Occupational-health; Work-environment; Workers; Occupational-exposure; Respiratory-system-disorders; Pulmonary-system-disorders; Bronchial-asthma; Surveillance-programs; Health-hazards; Worker-health; Occupational-diseases; Case-studies; Disease-prevention; Bakery-workers; Milling-industry; Food; Food-handlers; Food-processing-workers; Food-services; Foodstuff; Clinical-diagnosis; Allergens; Allergic-reactions; Allergies; Employee-exposure; Immunological-tests; Proteins; Enzymes
Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Occupational Health Surveillance Program, 250 Washington Street, 6th Floor, Boston, MA 02108
Publication Date
Document Type
Funding Type
Cooperative Agreement
Fiscal Year
Identifying No.
Source Name
SENSOR Occupational Lung Disease Bulletin
Performing Organization
Massachusetts State Department of Public Health
Page last reviewed: April 1, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division