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Asthma related to cleaning agents: a clinical insight

Abstract

Objective To determine the agents causing asthmatic reactions during specific inhalation challenges (SICs) in workers with cleaning-related asthma symptoms and to assess the pattern of bronchial responses in order to identify the mechanisms involved in cleaning-related asthma.

Design A retrospective case series analysis.

Setting The study included all participants who completed an SIC procedure with the cleaning/disinfection products suspected of causing work-related asthma over the period 1992–2011 in a tertiary centre, which is the single specialised centre of the French-speaking part of Belgium where all participants with work-related asthma are referred to for SIC.

Results The review identified 44 participants who completed an SIC with cleaning/disinfection agents. Challenge exposure to the suspected cleaning agents elicited a ≥20% fall in forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1) in 17 (39%) participants. The cleaning products that induced a positive SIC contained quaternary ammonium compounds (n=10), glutaraldehyde (n=3), both of these agents (n=1) and ethanolamines (n=2). Positive SICs were associated with a significant decrease in the median (IQR) value of the provocative concentration of histamine causing a 20% fall in FEV1 (PC20) from 1.4 (0.2–4.2) mg/mL at baseline to 0.5 (0.4–3.0) mg/mL after the challenge and a significant increase in sputum eosinophils from 1.8 (0.8–7.2)% at baseline to 10.0 (4.1–15.9)% 7 h after the challenge exposure while these parameters did not significantly change in participants with a negative SIC. Overall, 11 of 17 participants with positive SICs showed greater than threefold decrease in postchallenge histamine PC20 value, a >2% increase in sputum eosinophils, or both of these outcomes.

Conclusions These data indicate that a substantial proportion of workers who experience asthma symptoms related to cleaning materials show a pattern of bronchial reaction consistent with sensitiser-induced occupational asthma. The results also suggest that quaternary ammonium compounds are the principal cause of sensitiser-induced occupational asthma among cleaners.

  • Bronchoprovocation tests
  • Occupational disease
  • Cleaning

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 3.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

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