Increased prevalence of IgG-induced sensitization and hypersensitivity pneumonitis (humidifier lung) in nonsmokers exposed to aerosols of a contaminated air conditioner

Respiration. 1992;59(4):211-4. doi: 10.1159/000196060.


Specific IgG antibodies against antigens of a contaminated air conditioner were estimated in serum of 134 workers of a printing company. Altogether 64% of the workers investigated revealed significantly elevated levels (> 3 U/ml) of IgG antibodies specific to these antigens as compared to a nonexposed control group. The occurrence of IgG antibodies for microbial extracts were 25% for Fusarium, 23% for Penicillium notatum, 13% for Alternaria tenuis, 12% for Aureobasidium pullulans, 9% for Sphaeropsidales species, 3% for Micropolyspora faeni, 2% for Aspergillus fumigatus and 2% for Thermoactionomyces vulgaris. Out of the 86 workers with elevated IgG antibodies for air conditioner antigens, 59 were nonsmokers. Considering a cut-off level of 10 U/ml IgG for high values, the proportion of smokers to nonsmokers becomes even more pronounced (6 to 36 respectively, binominal test p < 0.001). This is despite the fact that the distribution of smokers and nonsmokers among the 134 workers is approximately equal (60 to 74). All 3 workers with clinical diagnosis of humidifier lung or humidifier fever belonged to the nonsmoker group. Our findings indicate that crude water extracts of contaminated air conditioners are the best choice as antigen source for the diagnosis of humidifier lung in exposed workers. Nonsmokers are shown to have a high risk for immunological sensitization.

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols
  • Air Conditioning / adverse effects*
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / adverse effects*
  • Alveolitis, Extrinsic Allergic / etiology*
  • Alveolitis, Extrinsic Allergic / immunology
  • Antibodies, Anti-Idiotypic / analysis
  • Antigens / immunology
  • Equipment Contamination
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / adverse effects*
  • Prevalence
  • Radioallergosorbent Test
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Water Microbiology


  • Aerosols
  • Antibodies, Anti-Idiotypic
  • Antigens
  • Immunoglobulin G