Respiratory disorders and allergies in tea packers


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




Occup Med (Lond)


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.