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Occup Med (Lond). 2011 Jan;61(1):45-52. doi: 10.1093/occmed/kqq170. Epub 2010 Nov 15.

Upper respiratory impairment in restorers of cultural heritage.

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  • 1Occupational Health and Environmental Medicine Unit, Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Health, Ksaverska cesta 2, HR-10001 Zagreb, Croatia.



There is a paucity of data regarding respiratory health in restorers of cultural heritage or similar occupations, such as visual artists or museum workers, although they are exposed to a complex mixture of various respiratory hazards.


To evaluate atopy and respiratory health parameters, including bronchial and nasal non-specific reactivity, in restorers and conservators of cultural heritage (restorers).


Fifty-six restorers and 62 controls provided general data and data on ever experienced rhinitic or asthma-like symptoms, spirometry, non-specific bronchial and nasal responsiveness to histamine, skin prick testing to common inhalational allergens and serum total IgE levels.


Spirometry values were in the range of normal values in 55 of 56 restorers and did not differ significantly from those in control subjects. However, restorers had more than two times higher prevalence of nasal hyper-responsiveness (NHR), with 2.3 times higher risk of NHR compared to controls [95% confidence interval (CI): 1.4-3.6, P < 0.001]. The risk of NHR was slightly reduced by increasing age (odds ratio 0.95, 95% CI: 0.91-0.99, P < 0.05). NHR was not associated with gender, smoking status, bronchial hyperresponsiveness (BHR), upper or lower respiratory symptoms or atopy status.


Compared with controls, the studied group of workers occupationally exposed to respiratory hazards during restoration/conservation activities had no deterioration of lung function but had an increased non-specific nasal responsiveness that was not correlated with upper and lower respiratory symptoms, BHR or atopy. The relationship of this finding to future clinical outcome should be investigated in a longitudinal study.

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