Daily changes of peak expiratory flow and respiratory symptom occurrence around a soy processing factory

Dick Heederik 1,  
Gert Doekes 1,  
Utrecht University, Institute for Risk Assesment Sciences, Division of Environmental Epidemiology, Utrecht, The Netherlands
Municipal Health Service, Amsterdam, Utrecht, The Netherlands
Ann Agric Environ Med 2014;21(1):5–10
Objectives. To evaluate sensitization and acute respiratory health effects in inhabitants living in the vicinity of a factory producing soy oil. Methods. Two panels of potential responders were created on the basis of a response to a short screening questionnaire sent to random samples of 1,000 exposed and 1,000 non-exposed individuals living around the factory and a control area. Individuals responding to the questionnaire were invited for a medical evaluation, including a respiratory symptom questionnaire and skin prick testing, for a panel of common allergens and a soy allergen extract. This resulted in 53 atopic and/or asthmatic inhabitants from the area surrounding the factory and 30 comparable control subjects. In these subjects, morning and evening Peak Expiratory Flow (PEF), respiratory symptoms and medication use were recorded daily during a 10-week period in the autumn. At the same time, soy allergen and endotoxin concentrations were determined in airborne dust in the exposed and the control area. The wind direction relative to the location of a subjects’ house and the factory was used to determine whether an individual was exposed on a particular day. Results. Only few of the atopic subjects were sensitized to soy. PEF showed a decrease, respiratory symptoms and bronchodilator use, an increase among soy sensitized subjects after having been downwind from the factory. Airborne soy allergen was found more frequently in the area surrounding the factory and levels were higher than in the control area. Highest levels were found on the factory premises. Only a weak association was found with wind direction. Airborne endotoxin concentrations did not show a consistent pattern with distance, but levels were clearly higher on the factory premises. Conclusion. Sensitization to soy allergen was not increased among the population sample living in the vicinity of the factory. Soy sensitized individuals living in the surroundings of the factory reported more respiratory symptoms, used bronchodilators more often and had a lower PEF after having been downwind of the factory.