Occupational Asthma Reference

Steiner M, Scaife A, Semple S, Hulks G, Ayres JG, Sodium metabisulphite induced airways disease in the fishing and fish-processing industry, Occup Med (London), 2008;58:545-550,

Keywords: Irritant induced asthma;,challenge; fish-processing industry; occupational exposures; sodium metabisulphite; sulphur dioxide

Known Authors

Jon Ayres, University of Birmingham Jon Ayres

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Sodium metabisulphite is recognized as a potential cause of airway irritation and possibly occupational asthma, but awareness of its use in the fishing and fish-processing industry is low.

Aims and methods
To describe three cases of occupational airways disease due to SMBS exposure and to review the literature.

Three patients, one trawlerman and two prawn processors, developed work-related airways disease due to exposure to sodium metabisulphite, one with irritant-induced asthma with a positive-specific bronchial challenge associated with very high sulphur dioxide exposures, one with occupational asthma and one with vocal cord dysfunction and underlying asthma. Of the nine cases recorded in the literature, most were non-atopic and responses to specific bronchial challenge when undertaken showed an immediate response. Exposures to sulphur dioxide in these settings are very high, in excess of 30 ppm.

Sodium metabisulphite should be regarded as a cause of occupational airways disease and its use in the fish and prawn-processing industry investigated further to better identify risks from exposure and handling of the agent in the workplace.

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