Authors: Harris-Roberts J, Robinson E, Fishwick D, Fourie A, Rees D, Spies A, Curran A, Sen D, Barber C.

Source: Am J Ind Med. 55(5): 485-464


Background: Following the results of a previous study that highlighted the potential for significant levels of dust exposure in South African soybean processing plants, a clinical investigation was undertaken to study the respiratory health of workers in this industry.

Methods: Workers from three soybean-processing plants were studied with a respiratory questionnaire and estimation of atopy and specific soybean IgE.

Results: A total of 144 of the 181 (79.6% participation rate) plant employees completed the questionnaire and 136 (75.1%) gave blood samples for analysis of specific IgE. There was a significant association between work-related chest tightness (OR 4.0 [95% CI 1.3–12.6]), work-related nasal symptoms (OR 4.3 [95% CI 1.3–14.6]) and cough or chest tightness after handling soybean (OR 3.6 [95% CI 1.1–11.6]) and soybean sensitization. There was a significant association between current exposure to dust during soybean off-loading and “flu-like” illness (OR 2.7 [95% CI 1.0–7.2]), and cough or chest tightness after such work (OR 7.4 [95% CI 2.4–23.6]). The strongest predictor of work related nasal symptoms was sensitization to soybean, the latter strongly predicted by the presence of atopy (OR 34.7 [95% CI 6.6–182.5]).

Conclusions: Exposure and sensitization to soybean were associated with the presence of work related symptoms, including flu-like symptoms, cough, chest tightness, and nasal symptoms. The aetiology of these symptoms and more particularly the best intervention strategies require more detailed investigation. Am. J. Ind. Med. 55:458–464, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Full text available online.