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Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis Among Sawmill Workers Exposed To High Levels Of Airborne Molds

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Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis (HP- also known as extrinsic allergic alveolitis) can occur in people exposed to antigens such as grain dusts, agricultural dusts, and molds (fungi), bacteria. Patients with HP develop a severe allergy to the offending substances and often experience many adverse health symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath, weight loss, fevers, chills, and body aches.         

Karl Faerden et al. Hypersensitivity pneumonitis in a cluster of sawmill workers: a 10-year follow-up of exposure, symptoms, and lung function. International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health 2014:20:167-73.

A case series was presented of 10 men, aged 25 to 55 years, who developed hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP) after working in a sawmill with high levels of airborne mold spores and dust. The timber processed at the sawmill was entirely Norway Spruce (Picea abies). Seven of the 10 HP affected workers had high antibody levels to the common wood fungus Rhizopus microsporus. 

Several changes were made to the sawmill to reduce airborne levels of both mold and dusts. Over a 10 year period, the average level of airborne fungal spores fell by 99.8% from 9,800,000 to 19,000 spores per cubic meter and the average concentrations of airborne dust fell 97% from 3.4 to 0.091 milligrams per cubic meter. Following the 10 year reduction in airborne levels of mold and dust, all 10 of the workers affected by HP improved substantially and sick leave was significantly reduced.



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