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Health Effects of Occupational Exposure in a Dairy Food Industry, With a Specific Assessment of Exposure to Airborne Lactic Acid Bacteria

Zeilfelder, Bernd MD; Chouanière, Dominique MD; Reboux, Gabriel PhD; Vacheyrou, Mallory; Milon, Antoine; Wild, Pascal PhD; Oppliger, Anne PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: August 2012 - Volume 54 - Issue 8 - p 969–973
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e318253358f
Original Articles

Objective: Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) are used in food industries as probiotic agents. The aim of this study is to assess the potential health effects of airborne exposure to a mix of preblend (LAB and carbohydrate) and milk powder in workers.

Methods: A medical questionnaire, lung function tests, and immunologic tests were carried out on 50 workers. Occupational exposure to inhalable dust and airborne LAB was measured.

Results: Workers not using respiratory masks reported more symptoms of irritation than workers using protection. Workers from areas with higher levels of airborne LAB reported the most health symptoms and the immune responses of workers to LAB was higher than the immune responses of a control population.

Conclusions: Measures to reduce exposure to airborne LAB and milk powder in food industries are recommended.

From the Group of Biological Risks, Institute for Work and Health (Drs Zeilfelder, Chouanière, Wild, and Oppliger, and Mr Milon), Universities of Lausanne and Geneva, Lausanne, Switzerland; and Department of Mycology (Dr Reboux, Ms Vacheyrou), UMR/CNRS 6249 Chrono Environnement, University Hospital J. Minjoz, 25030 Besancon, France; and INRS (Dr Chouanière), Vandoeuvre-les-Nancy, France.

Address correspondence to: Anne Oppliger, PhD, Institute for Work and Health, rue du Bugnon 21, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland (

The authors declare no conflict of interest or source of funding.

©2012The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine