Author(s): Atis S, Tutluoglu B, Sahin K, Yaman M, Kkusta AR
BACKGROUND: This study aimed to investigate whether exposure to sunflower pollen (Helianthus annuus) increases both sensitization and respiratory symptoms, and whether or not it affects lung functions in sunflower processing workers. METHODS: The largest sunflower processing factories in the Thrace region of Turkey participated in this study. Workers from the units directly exposed to sunflower seed enrolled as the study group (n = 102) and workers who were not directly exposed to Helianthus annuus pollen (n = 102) were the control group. Detailed questionnaires covering respiratory and allergic symptoms were completed, and skin prick tests and lung function tests were performed. RESULTS: We found a very high rate (23.5%) of sensitization to Helianthus annuus in the study group compared to the controls (P<0.001). Logistic regression analysis showed that the risk of sensitization to H. annuus was increased 4.7-fold (odds ratio = 4.17, 95%) confidence interval = 1.3-16.7) if subjects were exposed to sunflower pollen in the workplace. While asthmatic symptoms and allergic skin diseases were not different between the two groups, workers in the study group had a higher rate of allergic rhinitis and conjunctivitis (P<0.05). We found that pulmonary function was significantly impaired in the study group (P<0.01). Using a multivariate analysis model, inclusion in the study group was found to be a predictive factor for impairment of lung function (P=0.002). CONCLUSIONS: We conclude that sunflower pollen has high allergenic potential, especially when there is close contact, and exposure to sunflower pollen in the workplace can result in impairment in lung function.