Prevalence of and relationship between rhinoconjunctivitis and lower airway diseases in compost workers with current or former exposure to organic dust
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Institute for Prevention and Occupational Medicine of the German Social Accident Insurance (IPA), Institute of the Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany
Ann Agric Environ Med. 2014;21(4):705–711
introduction and objective:
The relationship between allergic rhinitis and allergic asthma is well characterized. However, it remains unknown whether an association exists between symptoms of upper and lower airway diseases and occupational bioaerosol exposure beyond the scope of allergy.

Material and Methods:
The current cross-sectional study focuses on 190 current and 59 former compost workers exposed to bioaerosols. Work-related symptoms indicative of conjunctivitis, rhinitis and lower airway irritation were assessed and compared with 38 non-exposed control subjects. Allergic asthma was diagnosed using a calculated score, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) was spirometrically determined.

12 current, 8 former and 5 non-exposed subjects were diagnosed with allergic asthma and excluded from further analysis. Multivariate logistic regression models suggested that cough and chronic bronchitis in current compost workers were associated with eye irritation (OR 2.75 (0.93–8.07); OR 7.22 (1.12–46.5)). Chronic bronchitis in former workers was strongly associated with work-related eye irritation (OR 38.6 (1.33- >1000) and nose irritation (OR 25.0 (1.21–513)).

After excluding allergic asthmatics, there was no evidence that eye or nose irritation was due to an underlying atopic disease, but rather to non-allergic mucous membrane irritation syndrome. Therefore, the higher incidence of chronic bronchitis in former compost workers may reflect a chronic irritative process triggered by exposure to bioaerosols.

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