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Bakery workers are more prone to asthma - A Report

Bakery workers were nearly eight times more likely to have an asthma exacerbations than those working in other industries, reports a new analysis of 2003 European research data.

The occupational contribution to severe exacerbation of asthma was the focus of a review of data from the European Community Respiratory Health Survey (ECRHS), which is published in the European Respiratory Journal.

Occupationally aggravated asthma is an exacerbation or worsening of asthma in workers with previously existing asthma as a result of single or repeated workplace exposures to pulmonary irritants such as dusts and fumes, and the researchers point out that it contributes to loss of productivity due to sickness.

The research team said they analysed data related to a subset of 966 working adults in the ECRHS who had asthma, were from several European countries and were aged 20 to 44.

Seventy-four study participants reported having one or more severe exacerbation events, and this was defined as self-reported unplanned care for asthma in the past 12 months.

The authors noted that ex-smokers were less likely to have such an event than current smokers.

Substances hazardous to health in baking include flour dust, improver dusts including enzymes containing additives such as amylase, as well as cleaning and disinfectant products.

Last year, the UK Federation of Bakers, updated its guidance and associated training package on Dust Control and Health Surveillance in Bakeries in collaboration with the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to reflect changes to the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations.

According to the regulations, bakers must reduce exposure to flour dust as far below the WEL of 10 mg/m3, to lower the risk of occupationally aggravated asthma. Avoidance of dust clouds which arise from throwing flour, disposing of empty flour bags and brushing, is also advised.

Bag emptying, sieving, dough making are processes that also create a lot of dust.

Other recommendations to bakers in terms of mitigating dust exposure is to start up mixers on slow speed until wet and dry ingredients are combined and to use dredgers or sprinklers for dusting.

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Source: European Respiratory Journal

Title: The occupational contribution to severe exacerbation of asthma
Authors: P.K. Henneberger et al

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