Study objective: To analyze the extent to which the clinical diagnosis of bleach-induced asthma can be confirmed by laboratory tests and to determine the role of work-related exposure to bleaching powder in a group of hairdressers with respiratory complaints.
Methods: The study population consisted of 55 female hairdressers who had regular contact with various hair products and a clinical history of job-related rhinitic and/or asthmatic symptoms. We divided the individuals into two groups: group I, with asthmatic symptoms (n = 38), and group II, without asthmatic symptoms (control group, n = 17). All subjects underwent immunological, pulmonary-function, and nonspecific bronchial provocation tests, and 46 study participants were subjected to a standardized bleaching-powder test in a designated chamber.
Results: There were 13 positive responses to bleaching powder in the skin test, and 32 individuals showed positive bronchial responsiveness to acetylcholine; positive responses to the challenge with bleaching powder occurred in 9 women (22% of those tested). None of the women in group II reacted to bleaching powder. There was no significant difference between persons with a positive or a negative bronchial provocation test with regard to the evaluated parameters.
Conclusions: In the diagnostic workup of hairdressers with work-related respiratory symptoms, bleaching powder is one of the products that need to be tested. As not every patient with an asthmatic response to bleaching powder shows a positive response to the acetylcholine challenge test, in doubtful cases a specific exposure test may be recommendable.