Occupational asthma and allergy in snow crab processing in Newfoundland and Labrador

Gautrin, D.; Cartier, A.; Howse, D.; Horth-Susin, L.; Jong, M.; Swanson, M.; Lehrer, S.; Fox, G.; Neis, B.
January 2010
Occupational & Environmental Medicine;Jan2010, Vol. 67 Issue 1, p4
Academic Journal
Background: Risk factors and prevalence of occupational asthma (OA) and occupational allergy (OAl) in the snow crab-processing industry have been poorly studied. Objective: To estimate the prevalence of OA and OAl in snow crab-processing workers and determine their relationship with exposure to snow crab allergens and other potential risk factors. Methods: A total of 215 workers (120 female/95 male) were recruited from four plants in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada in 2001-2002. Results from questionnaires, skin-prick tests to snow crab meat and cooking water, specific IgEs against the latter, spirometry and peak flow monitoring were used to develop a diagnostic algorithm. An index based on work history and exposure measurements of snow crab aeroallergens was developed to estimate the cumulative exposure for each worker. Results: The prevalences of almost certain or highly probable OA and OAl were 15.8% and 14.9%, respectively. A high cumulative exposure to crab allergens, in jobs mostly held by women, was associated with OA (odds ratio (OR)?=?14.0, 95% CI 3.0 to 65.8) (highest vs lowest Cumulative Exposure Index) and with OAl (OR?=?7.1, 95% CI 1.9 to 29.0); job held when symptoms started (cleaning, packing, freezing) also predicted OA (OR?=?3.9, 95% CI 1.6 to 8.7) and OAl (OR?=?3.2, 95% CI 1.4 to 7.5). Atopy (OR?=?2.8, 95% CI 1.2 to 6.8), female gender (OR?=?10.7, 95% CI 3.6 to 32.1) and smoking were significant determinants for OA (OR?=?3.1, 95% CI 1.3 to 7.4). Conclusions: The prevalences of OA and OAl are high in snow crab-processing workers of Canada's East Coast. Cumulative exposure to snow crab allergens was related to the prevalences of OA and OAl in a dose-response manner taking into account atopy, gender and smoking.


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