Occupational Asthma

Project Title

Occupational Asthma and Allergy in Snow Crab Processing in Newfoundland and Labrador

Summary

Risk factors and prevalence of occupational asthma (OA) and allergy (OAl) in the snow crab processing industry have been poorly studied. The aim of this project was to estimate the prevalence of OA and OAl in snow crab processing workers and determine their relationship with exposure to snow crab allergens and other potential risk factors. A total of 215 workers (120 F/95 M) were recruited from four plants in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada in 2001-02. Results from questionnaires, skin-prick tests to snow crab meat and cooking water, specific IgE against the latter, spirometry and peak flow monitoring were used to develop a diagnostic algorithm. An index based on work history and exposure measurements of snow crab aeroallergens was developed to estimate the cumulative exposure for each worker. Results showed that the prevalence of almost certain or highly probable OA and OAl were 15.8% and 14.9%, respectively. A high cumulative exposure to crab allergens, in jobs mostly held by women, was associated with OA (OR=14.0; 95% confidence intervals 3.0-65.8) (highest vs. lowest cumulative exposure index) and with OAl (OR=7.1, 1.9-29.0); job held when symptoms started (cleaning, packing, freezing) also predicted OA (OR=3.9, 1.6-8.7) and OAl (OR=3.2, 1.4-7.5). Atopy (OR=2.8; 1.2-6.8), female gender (OR=10.7; 3.6-32.1) and smoking were significant determinants for OA (OR=3.1, 1.3-7.4). It was concluded that the prevalence of OA and OAl is high in snow crab processing workers of the Canada’s East Coast. Cumulative exposure to snow crab allergens was related to the prevalence of OA and OAl in a dose-response manner taking into account atopy, gender and smoking.

List of Project Outputs

Principal Investigators

Barbara Neis, SafetyNet, Memorial University of Newfoundland
André Cartier, Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal, Québec
Michael Jong, Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Co-Investigators

Sharon Buehler, Memorial University of Newfoundland
Robert Helleur, Memorial University of Newfoundland
Lise Horth-Susin, Valley Regional Hospital, Nova Scotia
Samuel Lehrer, Tulane Health Sciences Centre, New Orleans, Louisiana
Mark Swanson, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota
George Fox, Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Other Team Members

Denyse Gautrin, Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal, Québec
Dana Howse, SafetyNet, Memorial University of Newfoundland
Nancy Hounsell, Division of OHS, NL Department of Government Services
Scott Bennett, AMEC Industrial
Ray Green, Faculty of Engineering, Memorial University
Jason Callahan, Faculty of Engineering, Memorial University
Brad Pelley, Faculty of Engineering, Memorial University 
Ugis Bickis, PhD, Registered Occupational Hygienist

Community Collaborators

Working Group on Shellfish Asthma

Funding Sources

Canadian Institutes of Health Research
Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission of Newfoundland and Labrador (WHSCC-NL)
Memorial University of Newfoundland
Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Government Services
Air Labrador
Health Labrador Corporation
Summit Technologies Inc.
AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline
Quan-Tec Air, Inc.

Outputs

Reports

Working Group Report, Summarized

Publications

Howse, D., Jeebhay, M., & Neis, B. (2012).  The changing political economy of occupational health and safety in fisheries: Lessons from eastern Canada and South Africa.  Journal of Agrarian Change, Special Issue: The Polical Economy and Ecology of Capture Fisheries, 12(2-3), 344-363.

Power, N. G., Howse, D., Neis, B., & Brennan, S. (2010).  Bodies at work: Insights from marine and coastal OHS research.  Policy and Practice in Health and Safety, 8(1), 25-41.

Gautrin, D., Cartier, A., Howse, D., Horth-Susin, L., Jong, M., Swanson, M., Lahrer, S., Fox, G., & Neis, B. (2009). Occupational asthma and allergy in snow crab processing in Newfoundland and Labrador. Occupational & Environmental Medicine, 67, 17-23.

Gill, B. V., Rice, T. R., Cartier, A., Horth-Susin, L., Neis, B., Jong, M., Swanson, M., & Lehrer, S. B. (2009).  Identification of crab proteins that elicit IgE reactivity in snow-crab processing workers.  Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 124(5), 1051-1061.

Howse, D., Gautrin, D., Neis, B., Cartier, A., Horth-Susin, L., Jong, M., & Swanson, M. C. (2006).  Gender and snow crab occupational asthma in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.  Environmental Research, 101(2), 163-174.

Cartier, A., Lehrer, S. B., Horth-Susin, L., Swanson, M., Neis, B., Howse, D., & Jong, M. (2004). Prevalence of crab asthma in crab plant workers in Newfoundland and Labrador. International Journal of Cimcumpolar Health, 63(Suppl 2), 333-336.

Jong, M., Neis, B., Cartier, A., Horth-Susin, L., & Howse, D. (2004).  Knowledge, attitudes and beliefs regarding crab asthma in four communities of Newfoundland and Labrador.  International Journal of Cimcumpolar Health, 63(Suppl 2), 337-342.

Presentations

Howse, D., Neis, B., & Jeebhay, M. (2009).  Industrial change, precarious work, gender, and occupational allergy and asthma in seafood processing: Insights from case studies in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada and South Africa.  Presentation to ICOH 2009. Cape Town, South Africa.

Neis, B. (2009).  Industry dynamism and the risk of occupational respiratory illness in global fisheries.  Presentation to the "Allergy and Asthma due to Seafood Processing Onboard Fishing Vessels" session of the 10th International Symposium on Maritime Health. Goa, India, September 23-26.

Power, N., Howse, D., Brennan, S., & Neis, B. (2008).  Gendered bodies at work: Insights from marine and coastal OHS research.  Presentation to the Canadian Sociological Association Meetings. Vancouver, June 3-6. 

Contact Information

Barbara Neis, SafetyNet, Memorial University of Newfoundland
bneis@mun.ca

 

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Contact

SafetyNet

230 Elizabeth Ave, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1B 3X9

Postal Address: P.O. Box 4200, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1C 5S7

Tel: (709) 864-8000