Proteinaceous materials in the air can be highly allergenic and result in a range of immunologically mediated respiratory effects, including asthma. We report on the largest evaluation of exposure to date of airborne egg protein concentrations in an egg breaking and processing plant that had cases of occupational asthma. Personal air samples for egg protein were analyzed in duplicate on each PTFE filter using two analytical methods: (1) a commercial assay for non-specific total protein, and (2) indirect competitive inhibition assay using an ELISA method to quantify specific egg protein components. The highest concentrations were found in the egg washing room (mean exposure 644 microg/m3) and breaking room (255 microg/m3), which were also the areas where the risk of being sensitized was the greatest. There was excellent quantitative agreement between the airborne concentrations of total protein and sum of the specific protein antigens (ovalbumin, ovomucoid, and lysozyme). The correlation coefficient of the log-transformed data from the two methods was 0.88 (p < 0.0001). Size-selective sampling also indicated that most of the aerosol was capable of reaching the small airways. The methods described can be utilized to evaluate employee exposure to egg proteins. Exposure documentation, coupled with recommended exposure reduction strategies, could facilitate prevention of future employee sensitization and allergic respiratory responses by identifying high-exposure jobs and evaluating control measures.
Proteins; Occupational-health; Sensitization; Allergies; Allergic-reactions; Allergic-disorders; Allergens; Industrial-exposures; Industrial-hazards; Industrial-factory-workers; Industrial-safety; Respiratory-system-disorders; Respiratory-irritants; Pulmonary-system-disorders; Pulmonary-disorders; Airborne-particles; Air-contamination; Air-sampling; Aerosol-particles