The prevalence of respiratory symptoms among mushroom workers in Ireland
Background Respiratory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, hypersensitivity pneumonitis and upper airways symptoms have been ascribed to fungal exposures. Mushroom workers may be at risk of these as a consequence.
Aims To assess the prevalence of respiratory symptoms in mushroom workers.
Methods A cross-sectional study assessed 4 weeks of respiratory symptoms among mushroom workers divided into four categories of exposure, using a self-administered respiratory questionnaire and spirometry.
Results The population of 191 subjects was predominantly (66%) from Eastern Europe; 61% were women and 39% were under 30. It included 73 growers, 38 composters, 26 administrators and 52 packers. Among all workers, there was a high prevalence (67%) of one or more respiratory symptoms which did not appear to vary by age, gender, pack-years of smoking or duration of employment. There was a significant improvement in respiratory symptoms in workers during absence from the workplace (P< 0.001). Spirometry readings across all groups were within normal values. Symptom profiles suggest that as many as 22 workers had symptoms of airways disease; 18 (82%) of these were mushroom growers. Growers were significantly more likely to have symptoms consistent with airways disease than all other workers, odds ratio 9.2 (95% CI 3.0–28.4).
Conclusions There was a high prevalence of respiratory symptoms among mushroom workers. Mushroom growers may be at high risk of airways disease, possibly from fungal antigens or related exposures.