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AIHA J (Fairfax, Va). 2002 Sep-Oct;63(5):605-9.

Crab allergen exposures aboard five crab-processing vessels.

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  • 1Occupational and Environmental Medicine Program, Departments of Medicine and Environmental Health, University of Washington, Box 359739, 325 Ninth Ave., Seattle, WA 98104, USA.


Aerosolized crab allergens are suspected etiologic agents for asthma among crab-processing workers. The objectives of this study were to characterize crab allergen concentrations and respiratory symptom prevalence among processing workers aboard crab-processing vessels. A cross-sectional survey of five crab-processing vessels was conducted near Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Crab allergen concentrations were quantified during specific work activities with 25 personal air samples collected on polytetrafluoroethylene filters and analyzed by a competitive IgE immunoassay technique. Two standardized respiratory questionnaires were used to assess respiratory symptoms suggestive of bronchitis or asthma in 82 workers. Aerosolized crab allergen concentrations ranged from 79 ng/m3 to 21,093 ng/m3 (mean = 2797 ng/m3, SD = 4576 ng/m3). The highest concentrations were measured at butchering/degilling work stations, which were combined on the smallest vessel. A significant percentage of workers reported development of respiratory symptoms during the crab-processing season. Cough developed in 28% of workers, phlegm in 11% of workers, and wheeze and other asthma-like symptoms developed in 4% of workers. Despite variations in crab allergen levels, respiratory symptom prevalence was similar across all job categories. Substantial concentrations of crab allergen exposure were measured, as well as the potential for wide variability in exposure during crab processing aboard vessels. The high prevalence of reported respiratory symptoms across all job categories suggests potential adverse respiratory effects that should be further characterized by prospective studies using pulmonary function and serology testing, and rigorous exposure characterization.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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