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Occupational asthma caused by sodium disulphite in Norwegian lobster fishing
  1. J Madsen1,
  2. D Sherson1,
  3. H Kjøller1,
  4. I Hansen1,
  5. K Rasmussen2
  1. 1Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Vejle Hospital, Denmark
  2. 2Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Herning Hospital, Denmark
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr D Sherson
 Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Vejle Hospital, 7100 Vejle, Denmark;

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Sulphite is added to various foods due to its antioxidative effect. Sulphite is known to provoke bronchoconstriction in some atopics and individuals with asthma. Some asthmatics develop symptoms after ingestion of sulphite preserved foods.1

Occupational asthma due to sulphite has been described in the potato, wine, and laundry industries.2,3 An asthma-like syndrome has been described in agricultural workers during apricot sulphurisation.4

To our knowledge this is the first reported case of sulphite related occupational asthma in the fishing industry.


A 31 year old fisherman with no prior history of asthma or pulmonary symptoms developed a dry cough for the first time around 1 September 2001 while dipping Norwegian lobsters (Nephrops Norvegicus) into a sodium disulphite (SD) solution on board a fishing vessel. A wire basket containing 15 kg lobster was dipped into a barrel containing100 litres of water with 2 kg SD powder. This process takes place on deck with a roof. This was the only time that the patient himself mixed the solution. Otherwise he was exposed as a “bystander” about 2 metres from the container.

Later in September 2001, while fishing Norwegian lobster with exposure to the sulphite solution, he developed coughing with shortness of breath for the first time. He was …

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