Preventing baker's asthma: an alternative strategy

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BackgroundAlthough baker's asthma has attracted considerable research interest over the last 30 years, success in its prevention has been slow to achieve. This paper describes the results of an alternative preventive strategy, based on an observation that the excess of sensitization in bread bakers is largely due to IgE-mediated allergy to fungal amylase, contained in bread improvers. The practical application of the strategy has been to limit bread improver exposures to < 1 mg/m3 [8 h time-weighted average (TWA)], whilst exposures to all other ingredients, including flour, have been limited to < 10 mg/m3 (8 h TWA).MethodThe paper describes the findings of in-house respiratory health surveillance and dust sampling programmes, from a UK food company whose primary interests are milling and baking, over the period following the introduction of the strategy to target the reduction in bread improver exposure.ResultsOver the 10 year period of surveillance, the incidence of symptomatic sensitization in the bread baking sector (2240 per million employees per annum) was greater than for the other flour-using groups (330 per million employees per annum), despite broadly similar total inhalable dust exposures. There was an overall reduction in the incidence of new cases of symptomatic sensitization, from 2085 per million employees per year in the first 5 years of the surveillance programme, to 405 per million employees per year in the subsequent 5 years.ConclusionThe strategy of targeting bread improver exposure is an effective approach for the prevention of new cases of symptomatic sensitization in bread bakeries.

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