Subclinical immunologic and physiologic responses in hexamethylene diisocyanate-exposed auto body shop workers

Am J Ind Med. 2001 Jun;39(6):587-97. doi: 10.1002/ajim.1058.


Background: Diisocyanates are potent sensitizing agents and currently the most commonly identified cause of occupational asthma in industrialized countries. However, diisocyanate asthma is difficult to diagnose and exposure and host risk factors are unclear. Auto body shops, one of the most common hexamethylene diisocyanate (HDI) exposure settings, are particularly difficult to study due to their small size and episodic exposures. Surveillance studies of such workers are limited.

Objectives: We have initiated a cross-sectional field epidemiologic study, Survey of Painters and Repairers of Auto bodies by Yale (SPRAY), to characterize the effects of diisocyanate exposures on actively employed auto body shop workers. Methods and Results We present here questionnaire, physiologic, immunologic, and exposure data on 75 subjects enrolled in the study. No overt cases of clinically apparent diisocyanate asthma were identified based on spirometry, methacholine challenge, peak flows, and symptoms. HDI-specific lymphocyte proliferation was present in 30% of HDI-exposed workers and HDI-specific IgG in 34% of HDI-exposed workers, but they were not associated. HDI-specific IgE was detected in two workers. HDI-specific lymphocyte proliferation, increased methacholine responsiveness, and symptoms of chest tightness and shortness of breath were more common in the most heavily HDI-exposed workers, the painters. More long-term follow-up of this cohort should clarify the significance of these HDI-specific immunologic responses, physiologic changes, and symptoms.

Conclusions: These findings demonstrate the presence of HDI-specific immune responses in a large proportion of healthy HDI-exposed workers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / adverse effects
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / immunology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Asthma / chemically induced
  • Asthma / immunology*
  • Automobiles
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Cyanates / adverse effects
  • Cyanates / immunology*
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Isocyanates
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / chemically induced
  • Occupational Diseases / immunology*
  • Occupational Exposure* / adverse effects
  • Paint
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Cyanates
  • Isocyanates
  • 1,6-hexamethylene diisocyanate