A survey of dust exposure, respiratory symptoms, lung function, and response to skin prick tests was conducted in a modern British bakery. Of the 318 bakery employees, 279 (88%) took part. Jobs were ranked from 0 to 10 by perceived dustiness and this ranking correlated well with total dust concentration measured in 79 personal dust samples. Nine samples had concentrations greater than 10 mg/m3, the exposure limit for nuisance dust. All participants completed a self administered questionnaire on symptoms and their relation to work. FEV1 and FVC were measured by a dry wedge spirometer and bronchial reactivity to methacholine was estimated. Skin prick tests were performed with three common allergens and with 11 allergens likely to be found in bakery dust, including mites and moulds. Of the participants in the main exposure group, 35% reported chest symptoms which in 13% were work related. The corresponding figures for nasal symptoms were 38% and 19%. Symptoms, lung function, bronchial reactivity, and response to skin prick tests were related to current or past exposure to dust using logistic or linear regression analysis as appropriate. Exposure rank was significantly associated with most of the response variables studied. The study shows that respiratory symptoms and sensitisation are common, even in a modern bakery.
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