Occupational Asthma Reference

Harvey RR, Fechter-Leggett ED, Bailey RL, Edwards NT, Fedan KB, Virji MA, Nett RJ, Cox-Ganser JM, Cummings KJ, The Burden of Respiratory Abnormalities Among Workers at Coffee Roasting and Packaging Facilities, Front Pub Health, 2020;8:5,10.3389/fpubh.2020.00005

Keywords: coffee, occupational asthma, obliterative bronchiolitis, flavoring, diacetyl, 2, 3-pentanedione, green coffee, USA, ep, cs,

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Respiratory hazards in the coffee roasting and packaging industry can include asthmagens such as green coffee bean and other dust and alpha-diketones such as diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione that can occur naturally from roasting coffee or artificially from addition of flavoring to coffee. We sought to describe the burden of respiratory abnormalities among workers at 17 coffee roasting and packaging facilities.

We completed medical surveys at 17 coffee roasting and packaging facilities that included interviewer-administered questionnaires and pulmonary function testing. We summarized work-related symptoms, diagnoses, and spirometry testing results among all participants. We compared health outcomes between participants who worked near flavoring and who did not.

Participants most commonly reported nose and eye symptoms, and wheeze, with a work-related pattern for some. Symptoms and pulmonary function tests were consistent with work-related asthma in some participants. About 5% of workers had abnormal spirometry and most improved after bronchodilator. Health outcomes were similar between employees who worked near flavoring and who did not, except employees who worked near flavoring reported more chronic bronchitis and ever receiving a diagnosis of asthma than those who did not work near flavoring.

The symptoms and patterns likely represent overlapping health effects of different respiratory hazards, including green coffee bean and other dust that can contribute to work-related asthma, and diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione that can contribute to obliterative bronchiolitis. Healthcare providers and occupational health and safety practitioners should be aware that workers at coffee roasting and packaging facilities are potentially at risk for occupational lung diseases.

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