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Wednesday, 3 June

Allergic to Cleaning? Chemicals Could Cause Sensitivity

The British Medical (BMJ) Journal has published a paper on the sensitising effects of genetically modified enzymes used in cleaning chemicals, fragrances, flavours and pharmaceutical products looking closely at the potential for causing allergic reactions.

The paper was published online on September 21 It was produced in collaboration by a number of scientist from esteemed worldwide organisations.

The use of genetically engineered enzymes in the synthesis of flavourings, fragrances and other applications has increased tremendously. There is, however, a paucity of data on sensitisation and/or allergy to the finished products, wrote the team. We aimed to review the use of genetically modified enzymes and the enormous challenges in human biomonitoring studies with suitable assays of specific IgE to a variety of modified enzyme proteins in occupational settings and measure specific IgE to modified enzymes in exposed workers. (It should be noted that the study looked at both the manufacturing process and at the user end. Some recommendations for regular health monitoring were aimed the manufacturing/high exposure.)



Our data confirms that genetically engineered enzymes are potent allergens eliciting immediate-type sensitisation. Owing to lack of commercial diagnostic tests, few of those exposed receive regular surveillance including biomonitoring with relevant specific IgE assays.


What this paper adds

New developments of industrial processes in a variety of industries, fuelled by consumer pressure for low-fat foods and natural flavours, have resulted in an explosion in the production of flavours, fragrances and other industrial applications using enzyme technology. Engineering the enzyme protein may change its allergic properties, posing new potential health risk. A correlation between the workplace exposure, the level of sensitisation and respiratory symptoms was observed.

Brisman and Baur have shown up to 50% of workers studied developed conjunctivitis, rhino-conjunctivitis, asthma or hypersensitivity pneumonitis due to sensitisation. Most of the evidence comes from the detergent and food industries.

As enzymes are known to be allergenic, it is likely that the introduction of new enzymes or enzyme mixtures will increase the risk of allergy in the absence of preventive measures.

Picture: Are the cleaning chemicals used on your premises contributing to employee allergies?

Article written by Cathryn Ellis


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