Occupational airborne exposure, specific sensitization and the atopic status: evidence of a complex interrelationship
1 Institute for Occupational Medicine, Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Thielallee 69, Berlin D-14195, Germany
2 European Society for Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Berlin, Germany
3 Institute for Occupational and Maritime Medicine, Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany
Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology 2013, 8:2 doi:10.1186/1745-6673-8-2Published: 13 February 2013
We have investigated the relationship between atopic status and long-term occupational exposure to latex proteins or methyl diethyl diisocyanate (MDI) as high and low molecular weight asthma-inducing agents, respectively.
This study is based on retrospective analyses of two groups of symptomatic outpatients: 184 healthcare workers with latex exposure and 156 workers with isocyanate (MDI) exposure. We analysed atopic and non-atopic subgroups according to exposure duration and the frequencies of specific sensitization.
45% of the healthcare subgroup specifically sensitized to latex were atopic, whereas in the non-sensitized healthcare subgroup only 26% were atopic. On the other hand, subjects specifically sensitized to MDI were rarely atopic (only 15%), whereas in the subgroup non-sensitized to MDI atopy was present in 38%. After prolonged durations of exposure, the proportion of atopics was further elevated in most healthcare subgroups but it decreased in the MDI-exposed subjects.
We hypothesize that latex proteins as sensitizing agents might promote the development of atopy, whereas exposure to the low molecular weight MDI might inhibit the atopic status.