Background: Exposure to chromium and nickel salts is a poorly characterized cause of occupational asthma.
Methods: We describe four patients with work-related asthma due to metallic salts. Skin-prick tests to potassium dichromate and nickel sulfate were performed. The patients underwent methacholine inhalation tests and specific inhalation challenges (SIC) with both chromium and nickel salts.
Results: Two patients showed positive skin-prick tests to potassium dichromate and nickel sulfate. All patients had bronchial hyperresponsiveness to methacholine, which increased 24 h after SIC with metallic salts. SIC with potassium dichromate elicited late asthmatic reactions (LAR) in two workers, one subject had an early asthmatic reaction (EAR), and another subject showed a dual asthmatic reaction (DAR). SIC with nickel sulfate induced a DAR in one subject and a late asthmatic reaction in another.
Conclusions: Chromium and nickel salts can give rise to occupational asthma in exposed workers. The underlying mechanism may be IgE-mediated in some cases.