Occupational asthma in a technologist exposed to glutaraldehyde

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1993 May;91(5):974-8. doi: 10.1016/0091-6749(93)90209-x.


Background: Occupational asthma can be caused by several sterilizing agents, including glutaraldehyde, which has been shown to cause irritation of the eyes and upper respiratory tract and skin rash. We report a case of occupational asthma that was caused by exposure to glutaraldehyde.

Methods: To document the diagnosis of occupational asthma in a respiratory technologist, the following tests were performed: preshift and postshift spirometry, serial measurements of peak expiratory flow rate and nonspecific bronchial hyperresponsiveness, and workplace challenge test.

Results: Monitoring of peak expiratory flow rate showed improvement when the subject was away from the workplace. Improvements in forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) and provocative concentration causing a 20% fall in FEV1 were also observed. A workplace challenge test showed a progressive fall in FEV1 when the subject was exposed to glutaraldehyde in a sterilizing agent used to clean bronchoscopes at her workplace. After the diagnosis of occupational asthma was confirmed, the subject continued to assist with bronchoscopy but no longer cleaned the bronchoscopes.

Conclusions: This case study illustrates the usefulness of a workplace challenge test in confirming the diagnosis of occupational asthma. It also indicates the importance of preventing or reducing exposure to sterilizing agents such as glutaraldehyde by means of effective ventilation and proper storage and enclosure during use.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asthma / chemically induced*
  • Asthma / diagnosis
  • Asthma / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Forced Expiratory Volume
  • Glutaral / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Maximal Expiratory Flow Rate
  • Occupational Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Occupational Diseases / diagnosis
  • Occupational Diseases / physiopathology
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects


  • Glutaral