Occupational Asthma Reference

Smith TA, Patton J, Health surveillance in milling, baking and other food manufacturing operations--five years' experience, Occup Med (London), 1999;49:147-153,

Keywords: UK, surveillance, food, incidence, exposure, flour, oa, rhinitis, grain, miller, amylase, baker, wheat, longitudinal study

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Trevor Smith, Cheshire Trevor Smith

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Abstract

The objective of this study was to describe the incidence of allergic respiratory disease and its outcome in terms of symptoms and jobs, across different flour-using industries. It uses the findings of a health surveillance programme in a large food organization over a five-year period. The population under surveillance consisted of 3,450 employees with exposure to ingredient dusts, of whom 400 were in flour milling, 1,650 in bread baking, 550 in cake baking and 850 in other flour-using operations. A total of 66 employees with either asthma or rhinitis symptoms attributable to sensitization to allergens in the workplace were identified. The majority of these (48/66) had become symptomatic prior to the commencement of the health surveillance programme in 1993. The incidence rates (per million employees per year) for those who developed symptoms between 1993 and 1997 were 550 for flour milling, 1,940 for bread baking, 0 for cake baking and 235 for other flour-using operations. The agent believed to be responsible for symptoms was most commonly grain dust in flour millers and fungal amylase in bread bakers. Wheat flour appeared to have a weaker sensitizing potential than these other two substances. In terms of outcome, at follow-up 18% of symptomatically sensitized employees had left the company. Two of the ex-employees retired through ill health due to occupational asthma. Of those still in employment, 63% described an improvement in symptoms, 32% were unchanged and 4% were worse than when first diagnosed. Over half the cases still in employment were continuing to work in the same job as at the time of diagnosis

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