OBJECTIVES To assess the prevalence of enzyme sensitisation in the detergent industry.
METHODS A cross sectional study was conducted in a detergent factory. Sensitisation to enzymes was examined by skin prick and radioallergosorbent (RAST) tests. 76 Workers were tested; 40 in manufacturing, packing, and maintenance, and 36 non-exposed people in management and sales departments. The workers were interviewed for work related respiratory and skin symptoms. Total dust concentrations were measured by a gravimetric method, and the concentration of protease in air by a catalytic method.
RESULTS Nine workers (22%) were sensitised to enzymes in the exposed group of 40, whereas none were sensitised in the non-exposed group. All the sensitised people had symptoms at work; all had rhinitis and one had asthma.
Protease concentrations were generally <20 ng/m3, but occasional peak values up to 80 ng/m3 were detected in the packing and maintenance tasks, and high values of >1 μg/m3 in the mixing area.
CONCLUSION Despite the use of encapsulated enzyme preparations, high enzyme concentrations in workplace air are possible, resulting in a higher risk of sensitisation than expected.
- detergent enzymes
- occupational exposure
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