Objective: To provide an overview of how a comprehensive preclinical, clinical, and industrial hygiene program has been successfully used to control allergy and asthma to enzymes used in the detergent industry.
Data sources: The author performed a PubMed and ToxLine search of English-language articles with the keywords enzymes, occupational allergy, occupational asthma, detergent, and detergent industry from January 1, 1995, to January 1, 2002. Scientific meeting abstracts, books, and industry association papers on allergy and asthma in the detergent industry were also reviewed. In addition, the practical experience of one major detergent company was included in the review.
Study selection: All published work on this topic was reviewed, and the work that discussed the key highlights of control of occupational allergy and asthma to enzymes used in the detergent industry was selected for this review.
Results: The detergent industry has developed guidelines for the safety assessment of enzymes, control of exposure to enzymes, and medical surveillance of enzyme-exposed workers. Because of these guidelines, occupational allergy and asthma to enzymes used in the detergent industry have become uncommon events. Cases of disease have been documented in some manufacturing sites that have had poor adherence to the guidelines. Those manufacturing sites that have adhered to the guidelines have had few cases of allergy and asthma to enzymes among exposed workers. A review of medical data from these sites has shown that workers who have developed IgE antibody to enzymes can continue to work with enzymes and remain symptom free.
Conclusions: Occupational allergy and asthma to enzymes used in the detergent industry have been successfully controlled via the use of preclinical, clinical, and industrial hygiene safety programs designed to minimize sensitization to enzymes and development of disease. The basic principles of these programs can be applied to other industries where occupational allergy and asthma to proteins are common.