OBJECTIVES: To estimate the prevalence of sensitisation to natural rubber latex in latex tappers and latex glove factory workers, and to relate this to airborne exposure to latex. METHODS: Five hundred workers employed in three latex glove factories, 314 tappers, and 144 college students (control group) were studied. The workers in the glove factories were classified into three exposure groups; high, moderate, and low. Personal exposures to natural rubber latex aeroallergens were measured by immunoassay. Symptom questionnaires and skin prick tests with latex allergens (Stallergènes 1:200 w/v) and other common environmental allergens were performed. The criterion for positivity was a wheal reaction at least 3 mm in diameter greater than that to a diluent control. RESULTS: The geometric mean (GM) concentration of latex in air was 15.4 microg/m(3) for those employed in glove stripping, glove inspections, and packing of powdered gloves. The moderate exposure glove manufacturing group and the tappers had GM concentrations of 2.3 and 2.4 microg/m(3) respectively, compared with United Kingdom users of latex powdered gloves,who had GM concentrations of 0.5 microg/m(3). The prevalence of sensitisation to latex in the tappers and latex glove factory workers was 1.3% and 1.7% respectively. No positive cases were found among the college students. Workers who showed a positive skin prick test to latex were more likely to be atopic. Work related respiratory and dermatological symptoms were found in about 20% of each population studied, but were not related to the presence of positive latex prick tests. CONCLUSIONS: This study suggests that in the Thai latex industries, latex sensitisation is rare despite high concentrations of airborne exposure and is less prevalent than in the healthcare sector in Europe where skin exposure is greater.
- natural rubber
- glove factory