It is indicated that 5-19 percent of adults’ asthma resulted from occupational exposure, with baker’s asthma being one of the most common forms of occupational asthma. In Finland, France, Australia, the United States of America, and Germany, the prevalence for baker’s asthma and rhinitis ranged from 4 to 10 percent, and 14 to 23 percent respectively.
Besides flour, other raw materials are often used in the baking workplace, such as eggs, yeast, butter and food flavoring. Hence, workers in the food-manufacturing industry may be exposed to various kinds of flavoring compounds. Accompanied with the mixing, blending, and heating processes in the baking workplace, the occurrence of airborne hazards, such as dust and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), have been observed.
A recent study led by Dr. Shih-Wei Tsai at the National Taiwan University College of Public Health, monitored the levels of airborne flour dust and hazardous chemicals in bakeries in Taiwan. The concentrations of most commonly found airborne compounds in the bakeries, including inhalable and respirable flour dusts, diacetyl, acetoin, 2,3-pentanedione, 2,3-hexanedione, 2,3-heptanedioine, furfural and acetaldehyde were measured.
Results showed that above 23 percent of the samples had concentrations of inhalable flour dust higher than the ACGIH TLV-TWA (0.5 mg m-3). The levels of acetaldehyde in these bakeries were 37~83 times higher than the concentrations that generally occurred in the residential areas and Chinese restaurants. In addition, the concentration of total VOCs in the working areas of the bakeries was over 21 times higher than the levels determined in the non-working areas. As a result, efforts are needed to improve the indoor air quality of bakeries.
These findings were published in the August issue of Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene.
P.T. Chang, P.C. Hung, and S.W. Tsai. “Occupational exposures of flour dust and airborne chemicals at bakeries in Taiwan.” J Occup Environ Hyg, Vol. 15, No. 8, 580-587. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29708861