Apricot sulfurization: an occupation that induces an asthma-like syndrome in agricultural environments

Am J Ind Med. 2003 Apr;43(4):447-53. doi: 10.1002/ajim.10199.


Background: Several cases of bronchial asthma have been presenting with acute attacks during the seasons of apricot sulfurization. The aim of this study was to reveal the effects of sulfur dioxide (SO(2)) exposure on the airways of the workers involved in this process.

Methods: SO(2) levels in air were measured on 15 apricot farms, while the symptom scores of 69 workers were recorded before, during, and after SO(2) exposure. Physical examination and pulmonary function tests (PFT) of the workers were also done prior to and after exposure periods.

Results: The measured SO(2) concentrations ranged between 106.6 and 721.0 ppm. Dyspnea (80%), cough (78%), and eye and nose irritation (83-70%) were the most commonly observed symptoms. The workers had significant decreases in pulmonary functions after SO(2) exposure. Decrements in FEV(1), FEV(1)/FVC%, and FEF(25-75%) showed that the acute effect of SO(2) on pulmonary functions of the workers was mostly of obstructive pattern.

Conclusions: Acute exposure to SO(2) induces "asthma-like syndrome" (ALS) in apricot sulfurization workers. SO(2) which has not been previously reported in agricultural environments as a cause of ALS may be considered as a new agent.

MeSH terms

  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / etiology*
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / analysis*
  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Occupational Exposure / analysis*
  • Prunus*
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Sulfur Dioxide / adverse effects
  • Sulfur Dioxide / analysis*
  • Syndrome


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Sulfur Dioxide