Salmon allergen exposure, occupational asthma, and respiratory symptoms among salmon processing workers

Am J Ind Med. 2012 Jul;55(7):624-30. doi: 10.1002/ajim.22067. Epub 2012 May 10.


Background: This investigation was triggered by three cases of asthma-about 10% of the workforce-occurring in a salmon processing plant over a short period of time. The aim of the investigation was to characterize the work exposure of inhalable organic particles with personal measurements. Respiratory symptoms at work among workers were also assessed.

Methods: Exposures to airborne salmon allergen, airborne mold spores, and endotoxin in water and air were measured during work. To assess the Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) Sal s 1 allergen exposure a polyclonal sandwich enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was developed. Current workers (n = 26) answered questionnaires and underwent allergy and lung function tests.

Results: Using the sensitive ELISA method (0.05 ng/ml), we found that workers were exposed to high levels of salmon major allergen at the filleting machine and at the filleting table. Airborne endotoxin levels were low, and mold levels were elevated. Only the three initial asthma cases had IgE to salmon. Of the other workers, 65% reported respiratory symptoms at work. These had lower pulmonary function than workers without such symptoms.

Conclusions: We developed a sensitive method to measure salmon antigen in air and found that filleting workers were most exposed. It is important to reduce aerosols by improving the ventilation system, machines and organization of work since respiratory symptoms at work among workers were common.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / adverse effects*
  • Animals
  • Asthma, Occupational / epidemiology*
  • Asthma, Occupational / etiology
  • Asthma, Occupational / immunology
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Female
  • Food Hypersensitivity / complications*
  • Food-Processing Industry*
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin E / blood
  • Male
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Respiratory System
  • Salmon / immunology*
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Immunoglobulin E