Respiratory disorders and allergies in tea packers

Author

Abramson MJ, Sim MR, Fritschi L, Vincent T, Benke G, Rolland JM

Date

6/2001

Journal

Occup Med (Lond)

Abstract

The aim of this study was to determine whether respiratory symptoms or cross-shift declines in lung function were related to occupational exposure to tea dust. A cross-sectional epidemiological study was conducted at a tea-packing plant. Subjects completed a questionnaire, spirometry before and after a full work shift, skin prick testing and venipuncture. Among the 83% of the workers at the site who participated, the prevalences of asthma, wheezing, hay fever and atopy were similar to the general population. Work-related nasal symptoms were more commonly reported by blenders and operators. There were six (3.2%) subjects with a cross-shift decline in the forced expiratory volume in 1 s of > 10%. Specific immunoglobulin E antibodies to black or chamomile tea were observed in 10 (5.6%) employees. As there was little evidence of specific allergic sensitization to the tea varieties tested, the excess of work-related respiratory and nasal symptoms probably represented non-specific irritation.