Background: Worldwide, there is rigorous scientific activity concerning the further development of work safety regulations involving airway-sensitizing substances. Technical directives on hazardous substances are enforced in several countries and are being continuously updated. The European Union has established a code for several occupational substances, now labeled R 42 ("may cause sensitization by inhalation").
Methods: We present an overview of the literature dealing with allergic occupational asthma. The literature was selected according to criteria of study design and diagnostic test methods. Approximately 300 publications were reviewed including both epidemiological studies and individual case reports.
Results: Airway sensitizers are systematically arranged and separately listed according to chemicals and their origin from animals, plants, and microorganisms. The clinical data as well as threshold limit values (TLV) and R 42 labeling of 250 airway-sensitizing substances are presented.
Conclusions: The most common sensitizing substances causing occupational asthma were dust of cereal flours, enzymes, natural rubber latex, laboratory animals as well as low molecular substances such as isocyanates and acid anhydrides.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.