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Eur Respir J. 1994 Feb;7(2):415-7.

Occupational asthma due to heated polypropylene.

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Dept of Chest Medicine, Höpital du Sacré-Coeur, Montreal, Canada.


A 35 year-old nonatopic woman was referred to the hospital for possible work-related asthma. She had worked as an operator, at a plant producing polypropylene bags, for the previous four yrs. Her main complaint was a productive cough with dyspnoea and wheezing, as well as rhinitis over the past 3 yrs. She had been absent from work for 6 months on maternity leave, and had improved greatly. She was on a beta 2-adrenergic agent and had to take it at least four times daily. Baseline spirometry whilst at work showed marked airflow obstruction (forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) of 43% predicted (pred). After two months away from work FEV1 improved to 89% pred; provocative concentration of histamine causing a 25% fall in FEV1 (PC20) was 3.6 (mild airway hyperresponsiveness). Return to work resulted in a marked deterioration in FEV1, and serial peak expiratory flow (PEFR) values. PC20 was 0.11 (severe airway hyperresponsiveness) one week after she had returned to work. Specific inhalation challenges with polypropylene heated to 250 degrees C resulted in a late asthmatic reaction. As formaldehyde is one of the degradation products of heating polypropylene, we exposed her to it for up to 2 h, but we elicited no bronchospastic reaction. We conclude that heated polypropylene should be listed as one of the agents that causes occupational asthma.

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