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Enzyme exposure and enzyme sensitisation in the baking industry.
  1. M Vanhanen,
  2. T Tuomi,
  3. H Hokkanen,
  4. O Tupasela,
  5. A Tuomainen,
  6. P C Holmberg,
  7. M Leisola,
  8. H Nordman
  1. Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki, Finland.


    OBJECTIVES: To assess the exposure to enzymes and prevalence of enzyme sensitisation in the baking industry. METHODS: A cross sectional study was conducted in four bakeries, one flour mill, and one crispbread factory. Sensitisation to enzymes, flours, and storage mites was examined by skin prick and radioallergosorbent (RAST) tests. 365 workers were tested. The workers were interviewed for work related respiratory and skin symptoms. Total dust concentrations were measured by a gravimetric method, and the concentration of alpha-amylase in air was measured by a catalytic method. An immunochemical method was used for measuring cellulase and xylanase in air. RESULTS: Total measured dust concentrations were from 0.1 to 18 mg/m3, with highest values in dough making areas of bakeries. The alpha-amylase concentrations generally followed the total dust concentrations and reached the highest values < 6.6 micrograms/m3 in the same areas. Cellulase and xylanase varied with concentrations < 180 ng/m3 and < 40 ng/m3, respectively, in the flour mill and the crispbread factory. No cellulase, but concentrations of 1-200 ng/m3 xylanase, were found in the bakeries, probably indicating the natural xylanase activity of wheat. 12 workers (8%) in the bakeries, three (5%) in the flour mill, and four (3%) in the crispbread factory were skin prick positive to enzymes. The corresponding percentages of positive reactions to flours were 12%, 5%, and 8%. CONCLUSIONS: The study confirmed that industrial enzymes in baking used as additives in a powdered form pose a risk of sensitisation. The no effect air concentrations for industrial enzymes are not known. Based on present knowledge, however, lowering exposures and eliminating short and high peaks by technical measures would lower the risk of sensitisation. This would be most effectively accomplished by shifting to non-dusty products.

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