Background: Risk factors and prevalence of occupational asthma (OA) and occupational allergy (OAl) in the snow crab-processing industry have been poorly studied.
Objective: To estimate the prevalence of OA and OAl in snow crab-processing workers and determine their relationship with exposure to snow crab allergens and other potential risk factors.
Methods: A total of 215 workers (120 female/95 male) were recruited from four plants in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada in 2001–2002. Results from questionnaires, skin-prick tests to snow crab meat and cooking water, specific IgEs against the latter, spirometry and peak flow monitoring were used to develop a diagnostic algorithm. An index based on work history and exposure measurements of snow crab aeroallergens was developed to estimate the cumulative exposure for each worker.
Results: The prevalences of almost certain or highly probable OA and OAl were 15.8% and 14.9%, respectively. A high cumulative exposure to crab allergens, in jobs mostly held by women, was associated with OA (odds ratio (OR) = 14.0, 95% CI 3.0 to 65.8) (highest vs lowest Cumulative Exposure Index) and with OAl (OR = 7.1, 95% CI 1.9 to 29.0); job held when symptoms started (cleaning, packing, freezing) also predicted OA (OR = 3.9, 95% CI 1.6 to 8.7) and OAl (OR = 3.2, 95% CI 1.4 to 7.5). Atopy (OR = 2.8, 95% CI 1.2 to 6.8), female gender (OR = 10.7, 95% CI 3.6 to 32.1) and smoking were significant determinants for OA (OR = 3.1, 95% CI 1.3 to 7.4).
Conclusions: The prevalences of OA and OAl are high in snow crab-processing workers of Canada’s East Coast. Cumulative exposure to snow crab allergens was related to the prevalences of OA and OAl in a dose–response manner taking into account atopy, gender and smoking.
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Funding This research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Grant CAHR-43269 through SafetyNet, a Community Research Alliance on Health and Safety in Marine and Coastal Work based at Memorial University in St John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Funding was also provided by the Newfoundland and Labrador Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission and Memorial University. In-kind support was provided by the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Government Services, Air Labrador, Health Labrador Corporation, Summit Technologies, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline and Quan-Tec-Air, Inc.
Competing interests None.
Ethics approval The protocol was approved by Memorial University’s Human Investigations Committee and by the Research Ethics Committee of Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal.
Patient consent Obtained.
Provenance and Peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.