The antioxidant, tert-butylhydroquinone: a new cause of asthma

Occup Med (Lond). 2023 Mar 15;73(2):109-111. doi: 10.1093/occmed/kqac093.


The antioxidant, tert-butylhydroquinone (TBHQ), a common additive in food and cosmetics can cause allergic contact dermatitis. A 49-year-old non-atopic male factory worker developed asthma in connection with cleaning mixing drums containing TBHQ. Due to the suspicion that TBHQ might be the cause of asthma, a specific inhalation challenge was carried out. Lactose was used as a control agent. The following day he developed asthma symptoms with a 41% drop in FEV1 after 30-min exposure to small amounts of TBHQ and water. Methacholine reactivity increased 5-fold after TBHQ exposure compared to pre-exposure reactivity. This suggests that TBHQ may be the cause of asthma in this case. Due to this case respirators were introduced in the factory to reduce TBHQ exposure. TBHQ has not previously been shown to cause asthma.

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants* / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Hydroquinones* / adverse effects
  • Male
  • Middle Aged


  • Antioxidants
  • 2-tert-butylhydroquinone
  • Hydroquinones