Occupational Asthma Reference

Ballester F, Soriano JB, Otero I, Rivera ML, Sunyer J, Merelles A, Verea H, Marin J, Anto JM, Asthma visits to emergency rooms and soybean unloading in the harbors of Valencia and A Coruna, Spain, Am J Epidemiol, 1999;149:315-322,

Keywords: epidemiology, Spain, asthma, soybean, soya, outbreak

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Josep Antó, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain Josep Antó

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Abstract

Soybean unloading in the harbor of Barcelona, Spain, has been associated with large increases in the numbers of asthma patients treated in emergency departments between 1981 and 1987. In this study, the association between asthma and soybean unloading in two other Spanish cities, Valencia and A Coruna, was assessed. Asthma admissions were retrospectively identified for the period 1993-1995, and harbor activities were investigated in each location. Two approaches were used to assess the association between asthma and soybean unloading: One used unusual asthma days (days with an unusually high number of emergency room asthma visits) as an effect measure, and the other estimated the relative increase in the daily number of emergency room visits by autoregressive Poisson regression, adjusted for meteorologic variables, seasonality, and influenza incidence. No association between unusual asthma days and soya unloading was observed in either Valencia or A Coruna, except for one particular dock in Valencia. When the association between unloaded products and the daily number of emergency asthma visits was studied, a statistically significant association was observed for unloading of soya husk (relative risk = 1.50, 95% confidence interval 1.16-1.94) and soybeans (relative risk = 1.31, 95% confidence interval 1.08-1.59) in A Coruna. In Valencia, a statistical association was found only for the unloading of soybeans at two particular docks. Although these findings support the notion that asthma outbreaks are not a common hidden condition in most harbors where soybeans are unloaded, the weak associations reported are likely to be causal. Therefore, appropriate control measures should be implemented to avoid soybean dust emissions, particularly in harbors with populations living in the vicinity

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