Objectives: To obtain an overview of inhalable β(1→3)glucans levels in Dutch industrial bakeries and explore possible associations with reported respiratory health effects in bakery workers.
Methods: β(1→3)glucan levels were analysed in 186 personal inhalable dust measurements obtained from a random population of bakery workers. Association between respiratory health effects and exposure to β(1→3)glucan was explored in a population of industrial bakery workers participating in a Health Surveillance System for flour processing sectors. Based on their job, bakery workers were assigned to low or high exposure categories given the average job exposure estimates obtained from the measurement study.
Results: Bread bakers and dough makers had the highest exposures to β(1→3)glucans (GM 1.48 μg/m3 and 1.37 μg/m3 respectively). Strong correlations were found between airborne levels of inhalable dust and β(1→3)glucans, and between β(1→3)glucans and wheat allergens (Pearson correlation coefficients were 0.74 and 0.68 respectively). No significant associations could be identified between β(1→3)glucan exposure and work-related respiratory symptoms.
Conclusion: This study has shown that bakery workers are exposed to inhalable β(1→3)glucan levels comparable with exposure levels found in other occupational settings. More refined exposure assessment is necessary to fully understand the role of β(1→3)glucan exposure on respiratory health in bakery workers.
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Competing interests: None declared.