Exposure to flour dust in South African supermarket bakeries: modeling of baseline measurements of an intervention study.
OBJECTIVES Enzymes are commonly used in the baking industry, as they can improve dough quality and texture and lengthen the shelf life of the final product. There is little published information highlighting exposure to enzymes (other than fungal alpha-amylase) in the baking industry, therefore the purpose of this study was to identify antibodies and develop assays for the measurement of a variety of such enzymes in samples of airborne flour dust. METHODS Polyclonal antibodies to bacterial amylase, glucose oxidase and amyloglucosidase were identified and developed into ELISA assays. The assays showed limited cross-reactivity with other enzymes commonly used in the baking industry. RESULTS We measured levels of airborne enzymes in 195 personal air samples taken from a sample of 55 craft baking establishments. We were able to detect amyloglucosidase in 9% (16/184) of the samples, fungal alpha-amylase in 6% (11/171), bacterial alpha-amylase in 7% (13/195). However, we were unable to detect glucose oxidase in any of the samples. Measurements for protease enzymes were not carried out. Median levels in detectable samples of amyloglucosidase, fungal alpha-amylase and bacterial amylase were similar at 10.3, 5.3 and 5.9 ng/m(3), respectively. These figures represent the total enzyme protein (active and inactive) measured. CONCLUSIONS There are few data in the literature regarding sensitization and exposure-response relationships to these enzymes, and indeed there is often a lack of information within the industry as to the precise enzyme content of particular baking ingredients. As a precautionary measure, all enzymes are regarded as having the potential to cause respiratory sensitization. Consequently, exposures need to be controlled to as low a level as reasonably practicable, and future investigation may highlight the importance of measuring a variety of enzyme exposures and standardizing these methodologies to inform approaches to adequate control.