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J Occup Med Toxicol. 2013 Feb 13;8(1):2. doi: 10.1186/1745-6673-8-2.

Occupational airborne exposure, specific sensitization and the atopic status: evidence of a complex interrelationship.

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  • 1Institute for Occupational Medicine, Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Thielallee 69, Berlin D-14195, Germany. baur@uke.uni-hamburg.de.



We have investigated the relationship between atopic status and long-term occupational exposure to latex proteins or methyl diethyl diisocyanate (MDI) as high and low molecular weight asthma-inducing agents, respectively.


This study is based on retrospective analyses of two groups of symptomatic outpatients: 184 healthcare workers with latex exposure and 156 workers with isocyanate (MDI) exposure. We analysed atopic and non-atopic subgroups according to exposure duration and the frequencies of specific sensitization.


45% of the healthcare subgroup specifically sensitized to latex were atopic, whereas in the non-sensitized healthcare subgroup only 26% were atopic. On the other hand, subjects specifically sensitized to MDI were rarely atopic (only 15%), whereas in the subgroup non-sensitized to MDI atopy was present in 38%. After prolonged durations of exposure, the proportion of atopics was further elevated in most healthcare subgroups but it decreased in the MDI-exposed subjects.


We hypothesize that latex proteins as sensitizing agents might promote the development of atopy, whereas exposure to the low molecular weight MDI might inhibit the atopic status.

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