A clinical and immunological study on 92 workers occupationally exposed to anhydrides

Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 1995;67(6):395-403. doi: 10.1007/BF00381052.


This study aimed at investigating sensitizing and hazardous effects of a new acid anhydride, pyromellitic dianhydride (PMDA), in addition to those of phthalic anhydride, maleic anhydride and trimellitic anhydride, in a group of 92 exposed workers in two German chemical plants. Of the 92 workers, 56 reported work-related complaints with a predominance of phlegm and dyspnoea in those exposed to anhydride dust for less than 1 year. Haemorrhagic rhinitis occurred only after a prolonged exposure of more than 15 years. Specific IgE antibodies to anhydride-HSA conjugates could be detected in 15 exposed subjects, 12 of whom had work-related symptoms. The IgE-positive group had significantly more impaired lung function parameters than the IgE-negative group. The proportion of IgE-positive subjects was highest in the groups with dyspnoea (5/18), cough (6/24) and rhinitis (11/44) whereas only 1 of 11 workers with haemorrhagic rhinitis had such antibodies. A follow-up study of 23 affected workers was performed after 10 months to assess clinical symptoms, lung function and IgE antibody levels. This follow-up study showed the absence of obstructive ventilation patterns in three out of six subjects in addition to cessation of symptoms in most initially affected workers who were no longer exposed. On the other hand, 14 workers under continuous exposure had comparable pathological findings on re-examination. Our results confirm that anhydrides including the lesser known PMDA, behave as respiratory irritants and as immediate-type sensitizers. They predominantly induced reversible symptoms in workers whose exposure stopped after a working period of about 0.7 years. Abnormal lung function parameters normalized in nearly 50% of these subjects.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anhydrides / adverse effects*
  • Asthma / chemically induced
  • Asthma / diagnosis
  • Asthma / immunology
  • Benzoates / adverse effects
  • Chemical Industry*
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Epistaxis / chemically induced
  • Epistaxis / diagnosis
  • Epistaxis / immunology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin E / analysis
  • Immunosorbent Techniques
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Occupational Diseases / diagnosis
  • Occupational Diseases / immunology
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Rhinitis / chemically induced
  • Rhinitis / diagnosis
  • Rhinitis / immunology
  • Skin Tests
  • Time Factors


  • Anhydrides
  • Benzoates
  • pyromellitic dianhydride
  • Immunoglobulin E