Fatal asthma from powdering shark cartilage and review of fatal occupational asthma literature

Am J Ind Med. 2002 Jul;42(1):50-4. doi: 10.1002/ajim.10088.


Background: Work-related asthma (WRA) is the most common work-associated respiratory disease in developed countries.

Method: We report shark cartilage dust as a new potential cause of occupational asthma (OA) in the context of other fatal OA case reports.

Results: A 38-year-old white male worked for 8 years in a facility which primarily granulated and powdered various plastics. Sixteen months prior to his death, the plant began grinding shark cartilage. After 10 months of exposure, he reported chest symptoms at work in association with exposure to shark cartilage dust and a physician diagnosed asthma. Six months later, he complained of shortness of breath at work and died from autopsy-confirmed asthma. The latency from onset of exposure to symptoms and from symptom onset to death was shorter than 10 previously reported OA fatalities.

Conclusion: Recognition of occupational causes and triggers of asthma and removal of affected individuals from these exposures is critical and can prevent progression to irreversible or even fatal asthma.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Cartilage*
  • Dust / adverse effects*
  • Fatal Outcome
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Sharks*


  • Dust