Background: Crab processing workers may develop respiratory symptoms and specific IgE responses, but the risk factors have not been fully described.
Methods: In 1998, 107 workers at a crab processing facility completed a survey both at the beginning and end of the processing season. The surveys included standardized symptom questionnaires, spirometry, and serological testing, as well as measurement of workplace airborne crab allergens and microscopic analysis of aerosolized materials.
Results: Over the crab processing season, asthma-like symptoms developed in 26% of study participants and bronchitic symptoms in 19%. Only 9% of those with new asthma-like symptoms were IgE-sensitized to crab at the end of the season. Among the crab processing jobs, butchering and degilling workers had the highest incidence of respiratory symptoms.
Conclusions: Both personal and process-related factors appear to affect the development of respiratory symptoms in crab processing workers. In this study, crab specific IgE was not detected in most of the workers with new symptoms. Published 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.