Introduction: We report the first case of occupational asthma due to gluteraldehyde exposure in Singapore and also describe the use of a specific inhalational challenge (SIC) test in confirming the diagnosis.Clinical Picture: A 32-year-old laboratory technician presented with adult-onset asthma 2 years after daily exposure to gluteraldehyde which was used to sterilise the mouthpieces used for lung function testing. SIC testing showed a 25% drop in FEV1 after exposure to gluteraldehyde but not after exposure to a control, thus confirming the diagnosis. Treatment: Alternative arrangements were made for sterilisation of the mouthpieces so that glutaraldehyde could be removed from the workplace. There was a marked improvement in her asthmatic control thereafter. Conclusions: This case illustrates the use of a SIC test in the diagnosis of occupational asthma. Gluteraldehyde is a known cause of occupational asthma and should be kept in mind when evaluating asthmatic patients in at-risk occupations. Effective ventilation and proper storage should be ensured to minimise exposure to gluteraldehyde where its use is necessary.
Worldwide, asthma is estimated to affect between 5% and 10% of the population and, among adults, 4% to 9% of these cases have been attributed to an occupational cause. Yet, only 3 cases were reported and confirmed in Singapore in the year 2000 – an incidence of only 0.14/100,000 workers.
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