3-(Bromomethyl)-2-chloro-4-(methylsulfonyl)- benzoic acid: a new cause of sensitiser induced occupational asthma, rhinitis and urticaria

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Abstract

Objectives

3-(Bromomethyl)−2-chloro-4-(methylsulfonyl)-benzoic acid (BCMBA) has not previously been identified as a respiratory sensitiser. We detected two cases who presented respiratory and urticaria symptoms related to BCMBA and had positive skin prick tests to the agent. Subsequently, we conducted outbreak investigations at the BCMBA-producing factory and performed clinical examinations to confirm occupational diseases.

Methods

The outbreak investigations included observations of work processes, assessment of exposure, a medical survey with a questionnaire and skin prick tests with 0.5% BCMBA water solution on 85 exposed workers and 9 unexposed workers. We used specific inhalation or nasal challenge and open skin application test to investigate BCMBA-related occupational asthma, rhinitis and contact urticaria.

Results

We identified nine workers with respiratory and/or skin symptoms and positive skin prick tests to BCMBA in a chemical factory. A survey among chemical factory workers indicated a BCMBA-related sensitisation rate of 8% among all exposed workers; the rate was highest (25%) among production workers in the production hall. Sensitisation was detected only in workers with the estimated highest exposure levels. Six cases of occupational asthma, rhinitis and/or contact urticaria caused by BCMBA were confirmed with challenge tests. Asthma-provoking doses in specific inhalation challenges were very low (0.03% or 0.3% BCMBA in lactose).

Conclusions

We identified a new low molecular weight agent causing occupational asthma, rhinitis and contact urticaria. A typical clinical picture of allergic diseases and positive skin prick tests suggest underlying IgE-mediated disease mechanisms. Stringent exposure control measures are needed in order to prevent BCMBA-related diseases.

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