Occupational asthma and rhinitis due to detergent enzymes in healthcare

A Adisesh, E Murphy, CM Barber, Jonathan Ayres

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    24 Citations (Scopus)


    Background The use of proteolytic enzymes to improve the cleaning efficacy of washing powders was introduced in the mid 1960s. Many microbial enzymes are known to be potent respiratory sensitizers but previously there has been only one case of occupational asthma associated with workplace exposure in a healthcare worker. Aims To report two cases of occupational asthma associated with exposure to biological enzymes in healthcare workers and related occupational cases. Methods Reporting of clinical case reports from three different work places. Results One case of occupational asthma and three other cases with work-related asthma or rhinitis occurred in one workplace. A single case of probable occupational asthma presented at a second workplace with another case ofwork-related asthma at a third workplace. Exposures occurred in areas used for cleaning medical instruments and endoscopy suites. Hygiene measurements confirmed the potential for exposure. Control measureswere not in place and recognition of the hazard was missing in these workplaces. Conclusions Detergent enzymes when used in healthcare settings should be recognized as potential respiratory sensitizers. Healthcare institutions and professional bodies that recommend the use of detergent enzymes should review their risk assessments to ensure that the most appropriate methods for preventing or reducing exposure are in place.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)364-369
    Number of pages6
    JournalOccupational Medicine
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2011


    • respiratory
    • rhinitis
    • healthcare workers
    • Asthma
    • enzymes
    • sensitizers


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