Occupational Asthma Reference

Harris-Roberts J, Fishwick D, Tate P, Rawbone R, Stagg S, Barber CM, Adisesh A, Respiratory symptoms in insect breeders, Occup Med, 2011;61:370-373,

Keywords: locust, mealworm, pet food, IgE, air measurement, cricket, occupational asthma, questionnaire, oasys, peak flow, uk

Known Authors

Joanne Harris-Roberts (nee Elms), HSL, Buxton, UK Joanne Harris-Roberts (nee Elms)

David Fishwick, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield, UK David Fishwick

Roger Rawbone, Retired - ex Health and Safety Executive Roger Rawbone

Chris Barber, Health and Safety Laboratories, Buxton Chris Barber

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A number of specialist food suppliers in the UK breed and distribute insects and insect larvae as food for exotic pets, such as reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates.

To investigate the extent of work-related (WR) symptoms and workplace-specific serum IgE in workers potentially exposed to a variety of biological contaminants, including insect and insect larvae allergens, endotoxin and cereal allergens at a UK specialist insect breeding facility.

We undertook a study of respiratory symptoms and exposures at the facility, with subsequent detailed clinical assessment of one worker. All 32 workers were assessed clinically using a respiratory questionnaire and lung function. Eighteen workers consented to provide serum for determination of specific IgE to workplace allergens.

Thirty-four per cent (11/32) of insect workers reported WR respiratory symptoms. Sensitization, as judged by specific IgE, was found in 29% (4/14) of currently exposed workers. Total inhalable dust levels ranged from 1.2 to 17.9 mg/m3 [mean 4.3 mg/m3 (SD 4.4 mg/m3), median 2.0 mg/m3] and endotoxin levels of up to 29435 EU/m3 were recorded.

Exposure to organic dusts below the levels for which there are UK workplace exposure limits can result in respiratory symptoms and sensitization. The results should alert those responsible for the health of similarly exposed workers to the potential for respiratory ill-health and the need to provide a suitable health surveillance programme.

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