Background: Risk factors and prevalence of occupational asthma (OA) and allergy (OAl) in the snow crab processing industry have been poorly studied.
Aim: Estimate the prevalence of OA and OAl in snow crab processing workers and determine their relationship with exposure to snow crab allergens and other potential risk factors.
Methods: A total of 215 workers (120 F/95 M) were recruited from four plants in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada in 2001-02. Results from questionnaires, skin-prick tests to snow crab meat and cooking water, specific IgE against the latter, spirometry and peak flow monitoring were used to develop a diagnostic algorithm. An index based on work history and exposure measurements of snow crab aeroallergens was developed to estimate the cumulative exposure for each worker.
Results: The prevalence of almost certain or highly probable OA and OAl were 15.8% and 14.9%, respectively. A high cumulative exposure to crab allergens, in jobs mostly held by women, was associated with OA (OR=14.0; 95% confidence intervals 3.0-65.8) (highest vs. lowest cumulative exposure index) and with OAl (OR=7.1, 1.9-29.0); job held when symptoms started (cleaning, packing, freezing) also predicted OA (OR=3.9, 1.6-8.7) and OAl (OR=3.2, 1.4-7.5). Atopy (OR=2.8; 1.2-6.8), female gender (OR=10.7; 3.6-32.1) and smoking were significant determinants for OA (OR=3.1, 1.3-7.4).
Conclusions: The prevalence of OA and OAl is high in snow crab processing workers of the Canada's East Coast. Cumulative exposure to snow crab allergens was related to the prevalence of OA and OAl in a dose-response manner taking into account atopy, gender and smoking.
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