1633b Asthma in sericulture workers due to organic dust exposure

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Occupational Asthma in employees is attributable to exposure to biological or inorganic agents at workplace. Sericulture is an agro-cottage industry under informal sector. Silk manufacturing involves several steps. Workers are exposed to aerosols generated when silkworm cocoons are placed in boiling water to dissolve ‘sericin’ from outer layer. Silk thread reeled from cocoon is rolled, twisted into yarn and dyed before weaving. Workers employed in grainages where cocoons are stored and in cocoon trading centres are exposed to epithelial dust from silkworm moths and cocoons. Workers in farms producing mulberry leaves for silkworm rearing centres and dyeing units are also at risk of developing asthma as they are exposed to pesticides, disinfectants and chemical dyes. Previous studies showed that some sericulture workers develop sensitisation to silkworm allergens over a period. Objective of this study was to detect prevalence of asthma among sericulture workers, as many cases of asthma were observed in places where there are many sericulture industries in South India. 100 workers engaged in sericulture for more than 10 years and 100 persons from general population as control, who volunteered for this study, were enrolled. Clinical history and examination of enrolled persons was done. All participants underwent pulmonary function test and asthmatics among them underwent bronchial reversibility test. Results showed 14% of workers had occupational asthma and in control group 6% had allergic bronchitis. Mechanisation and installation of barriers to prevent manual handling and aerosol exposure is recommended, but not possible being a cottage industry with many small filature units. Quitting job is not practical due to workers financial status. Hence awareness programmes on prevention, personal protective equipments and early treatment is required. In conclusion, sericulture workers are at risk of developing asthma and continued exposure to allergens can progress to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in some workers.

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