Occupational asthma and the paper recycling industry

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Abstract

Background

Occupational disease linked to the paper recycling industry has not been well documented. No previously confirmed formal diagnosis of occupational asthma (OA) caused by hydroxylamine has been made.

Methods

We have assessed and performed occupational assessment of eight workers involved in this industry. Two of these were later diagnosed with OA and are reported here.

Results

Both workers developed their respiratory symptoms within 2 years of the first use of the chemical hydroxylamine as part of the ‘de-inking’ process. Hydroxylamine was used as a substitute for glutaraldehyde on risk grounds, although no prior cases of OA had been found. The two workers had worked at the same plant for 11 and 20 years, respectively. Both gave histories of work-related wheeze, shortness of breath and cough. Both cases performed OASYS peak flow records over a 3-week period and had OASYS II index of 2.85 and 2.67, respectively. Both were redeployed on site to non-exposed areas and subsequently demonstrated improvement in bronchial reactivity. Case 2 subsequently consented to and underwent a blinded, placebo-controlled occupational challenge using hydroxylamine demonstrating a significant isolated late asthmatic response.

Conclusions

We believe that these are the first two confirmed cases of OA caused by hydroxylamine in the paper recycling industry.

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