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Risk of enzyme allergy in the detergent industry
  1. Markku Vanhanen,
  2. Timo Tuomi,
  3. Ulla Tiikkainen,
  4. Outi Tupasela,
  5. Risto Voutilainen,
  6. Henrik Nordman
  1. Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki, Finland
  1. Markku Vanhanen, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Topeliuksenkatu 41 aA, FIN-00250 Helsinki, Finland. emailMarkku.Vanhanen{at}


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
  • allergy

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