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Am J Ind Med. 1998 Dec;34(6):623-7.

Sensitization to green coffee beans and work-related allergic symptoms in coffee workers.

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Istituto di Medicina del Lavoro, Università degli Studi di Trieste, Italy.



Occupational respiratory allergy to green coffee beans (GCB) and to castor beans (CB) was studied in 112 workers in a modern coffee manufacturing plant of Trieste (Italy), where the process is completely automatic, the environmental conditions are good and where exposure to CB can be considered absent because since 1970, only new sacks have been used for coffee transportation.


All subjects were interviewed by a trained doctor using a questionnaire to investigate allergic symptoms and predisposing factors. Sensitization to GCB and to common allergens (pollens, molds, house dust mites) were evaluated by the skin-prick test. The serum of subjects with a positive skin-prick test to CGB or who had symptoms at work was tested for specific IgE (RAST) for GCB and CB. Lung function was evaluated by a Ponigraph spirometer.


Sensitization to GCB was found in 25.8% of green coffee workers (31 cases), in 2.7% of roasted coffee workers (37 cases) and in 4.5% of the clerks (44 cases), p < 0.01. The evaluation of IgE specific for CB gave positive results only in 3 of 10 subjects sensitized to GCB. A total of 20% of GCB workers (6 cases) complained of work-related respiratory symptoms (asthma and/or rhinitis) compared with only one subject in the roasted coffee group and one in the control group (p < 0.01). Asthma was reported by 2/31 of the green coffee workers and by 1/44 of roasted coffee workers.


There was a significant correlation between sensitization to GCB and work related symptoms (p < 0.01), common allergic symptoms (p < 0.05) and atopy by prick test (< 0.01). These results point to the need to evaluate atopic status in workers and identify the most susceptible subjects, with the aim of informing them of their at-risk status and monitoring their progress. This makes it possible to diagnose sooner those symptoms possibly indicative of a work-related disease, because even in presence of good environmental conditions and even when symptoms are mild, it is almost always the atopic subjects who are affected.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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