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Working with detergent enzymes may cause lung problems

Posted Oct 17 2009 10:02pm

detergents Two recently published studies on the relationship between exposure to detergent enzymes and respiratory disease, confirming a relationship between the enzymes and occupational rhinitis or asthma. One from the UK and one from the Netherlands.

Detergent protease exposure and respiratory disease: case–referent analysis of a retrospective cohort
A Brant et al. Occupational and Environmental Medicine 2009; 66:754-758

To examine the relationship between protease exposure and respiratory disease in a cohort of detergent enzyme manufacturers, a case–referent analysis was made of a cohort of employees working in a European detergent factory between 1989 and 2002. The researchers found clear, monotonic relationships between estimated protease exposure and both lower and upper respiratory disease. After control for age, sex and smoking, the odds ratio of lower respiratory disease was significantly elevated ( 1.98, 95% CI 1.04 to 3.79) in those employees working in jobs in the highest quartile of protease exposure (geometric mean 7.9 ng.m–3). For employees with upper respiratory disease, the risk was significantly elevated at a lower level of estimated protease exposure (geometric mean 2.3 ng.m–3). These findings provide strong evidence of an association between detergent enzyme exposure and the development of respiratory disease in an occupational setting.

A cross-sectional study among detergent workers exposed to liquid detergent enzymes
F G B G J van Rooy et al. Occupational and Environmental Medicine 2009; 66:759-765

To investigate sensitisation and respiratory health among workers who produce liquid detergent products and handle liquid detergent enzymes, a cross-sectional study was performed among 109 eligible workers of a detergent products plant. It turned out that workers were exposed to proteases: amylase, lipase and cellulase. The highest exposures occurred in the mixing area. Liquid spills with concentrated enzyme preparations and leakage of enzymes during weighing, transportation and filling were causing workplace contaminations and subsequently leading to both dermal and inhalation exposure for workers. Workers with the highest exposures reported significantly more work-related symptoms of itching nose (prevalence ratio (PR) = 4.2, 95% CI 1.5 to 12.0) and sneezing (PR = 4.0, 95% CI 1.5 to 10.8) and marginally significant more symptoms of wheezing (PR = 2.9, 95% CI 0.9 to 8.7) compared with the least exposed group. Fifteen workers (14.2%) were sensitised to enzymes.  There was a clinical case of occupational asthma and two others with probable occupational rhinitis.Workers exposed to liquid detergent enzymes are at risk of developing sensitisation (14%) and respiratory allergy.

Posted in Asthma, Chemical agents, lung Tagged: Enzymes, occupational lung disease
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