OBJECTIVES: To examine an association between specific IgE to methyltetrahydrophthalic anhydride (MTHPA) and exposure time, atopic history, smoking habits, and total IgE concentrations. METHODS: A cross sectional survey was carried out on a population of 148 workers from two condenser plants using epoxy resin with MTHPA, an acid anhydride curing agent known to cause allergy. RESULTS: Using a Pharmacia CAP system with a MTHPA human serum albumin conjugate, specific IgE antibody was detected in serum from 97 (66%) out of the 148 workers exposed to MTHPA. Stepwise multiple linear regression analysis showed a striking relation between log concentrations of specific and total IgE (P < 0.0001). Furthermore, when the workers were divided into two groups according to a cut-off point (100 IU/ml) between low and high total IgE, current smoking was significantly (P = 0.025) associated with specific IgE production only in the group with low total IgE (< 100 IU/ml). CONCLUSIONS: Smoking is the most significant risk factor for raising specific IgE to MTHPA in the group with low total IgE concentrations.
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