Isocyanate exposure and asthma in the UK vehicle repair industry

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Abstract

Background

Organic diisocyanates are a common cause of occupational asthma, particularly in motor vehicle repair (MVR) workers. The UK Health & Safety Laboratory provides screening for urinary hexamethylenediamine (UHDA), a biomarker of exposure to 1,6-hexamethylene diisocyanate (HDI). The UK Surveillance of Work-related and Occupational Respiratory Disease scheme (SWORD) has collected reports of occupational asthma since 1996.

Aims

To compare trends in HDI exposure with trends in the incidence of work-related asthma attributed to isocyanates or paint spraying in MVR workers reported to SWORD.

Methods

Two-level regression models were used to estimate trends in UHDA levels and work-related asthma in MVR workers reported to SWORD. The direction and magnitude of the trends were compared descriptively.

Results

From 2006 to 2014, there was a significant decline in the number of urine samples with detectable levels of UHDA (odds ratio = 0.96; 95% confidence intervals 0.94–0.98) and minimal change in those over the guidance value (1.03; 1.00–1.06). Over the same period, there was a significant decline in all asthma cases attributed to isocyanates or paint spraying reported to SWORD (0.90; 0.86–0.94) and a non-significant decline among MVR workers (0.94; 0.86–1.02).

Conclusions

The simultaneous decrease in HDI exposure and incident cases of asthma reported to SWORD is temporally consistent with a reduction in exposure to airborne isocyanate leading to a reduction in asthma. Although this is not direct evidence of a causal relationship between the two trends, it is suggestive.

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