Health Effects of Flour Exposure in the Baking Industry
Adverse health effects from exposure to grain and flour have been recognised for many years. However, the prevalence of respiratory and other symptoms related to flour exposure in baking is quite variable. One study of Quebec pastry maker apprentices found the likelihood of developing an allergy to some component of flour was approximately 4% per year a person worked. It is not known how common sensitization to flour and respiratory symptoms are among Alberta bakers. It is also uncertain which agents in the workplace may cause health problems and the level of exposure needed to trigger them.
Our study is looking at the impact of flour and other workplace exposures on the health of bakery workers across Alberta. We are following over 200 apprentices/trainee bakers over a period of up to 3 years to see how many develop health problems including allergy to flour and other baking ingredients, and asthma. Each baker completed baseline lung and allergy testing and will be contacted at the end of the study to repeat these same tests in order to examine changes (if any). As part of the study we have also collected detailed information on the work individuals are carrying out so that we can identify which, if any, tasks are associated with health risks. This will help in advising workers, employers, and other agencies about the best ways to prevent any health problems identified.