Indexed on: 31 Jul '12Published on: 31 Jul '12Published in: The Annals of occupational hygiene
Occupational exposure limits (OELs) together with determined airborne exposures are used in risk assessment based managements of occupational exposures to prevent occupational diseases. In most countries, OELs have only been set for few protein-containing aerosols causing IgE-mediated allergies. They comprise aerosols of flour dust, grain dust, wood dust, natural rubber latex, and the subtilisins, which are proteolytic enzymes. These aerosols show dose-dependent effects and levels have been established, where nearly all workers may be exposed without adverse health effects, which are required for setting OELs. Our aim is to analyse prerequisites for setting OELs for the allergenic protein-containing aerosols. Opposite to the key effect of toxicological reactions, two thresholds, one for the sensitization phase and one for elicitation of IgE-mediated symptoms in sensitized individuals, are used in the OEL settings. For example, this was the case for flour dust, where OELs were based on dust levels due to linearity between flour dust and its allergen levels. The critical effects for flour and grain dust OELs were different, which indicates that conclusion by analogy (read-across) must be scientifically well founded. Except for subtilisins, no OEL have been set for other industrial enzymes, where many of which are high volume chemicals. For several of these, OELs have been proposed in the scientific literature during the last two decades. It is apparent that the scientific methodology is available for setting OELs for proteins and protein-containing aerosols where the critical effect is IgE sensitization and IgE-mediated airway diseases.