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Original Research: COFFEE DUST EXPOSURE |

Health Risks Due to Coffee Dust

Marcus Oldenburg, MD; Cordula Bittner, MD; Xaver Baur, MD
Author and Funding Information

From the Institute for Occupational and Maritime Medicine (Drs. Oldenburg, Bittner, and Baur), University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany; and the Hamburg State Department for Social Affairs, Family, Health and Consumer Protection (Drs. Oldenburg, Bittner, and Bauer), Hamburg, Germany.

Marcus Oldenburg, MD, Department of Maritime Medicine, Institute for Occupational and Maritime Medicine (ZfAM), University of Hamburg, Hamburg State Department for Social Affairs, Family, Health and Consumer Protection, Germany, Seewartenstrasse 10, D-20459 Hamburg, Germany; e-mail: marcus.oldenburg@bsg.hamburg.de


Reproduction of this article is prohibited without written permission from the American College of Chest Physicians (www.chestjournal.org/site/misc/reprints.xhtml).


© 2009 American College of Chest Physicians


Chest. 2009;136(2):536-544. doi:10.1378/chest.08-1965
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Objective:  This study assessed current health risks due to occupational exposure to coffee dust.

Methods:  We performed a cross-sectional study in a coffee haulage company (n = 24), a coffee silo (n = 19), and a decaffeinating company (n = 17). Cross-shift and cross-week case histories of these employees as well as lung function values were recorded. During the handling of green coffee, measurements of airborne dust were conducted.

Results:  The employees in these workplaces were mainly affected by erythematous and rhinoconjunctival symptoms. They occurred especially in subjects exposed to a high dust load (> 10 mg of inhalable dust per cubic meter of air; n = 28) [Pearson χ2 test, p = 0.020 and p = 0.023]. IgE antibodies to green coffee and castor beans were detected in 3 workers and 10 workers, respectively. The majority of them (two employees and six employees, respectively) had shown respiratory symptoms during the past 12 months. The preshift lung function values were below average but were not dependent on the level of the inhalable coffee dust exposure. Employees with a coffee dust load > 10 mg/m3 of air showed higher unspecific bronchial responsiveness more frequently than those with lower exposures.

Conclusion:  During the transshipment (especially during unloading) of green coffee, a high and clinically relevant exposure to irritative and sensitizing dust occurs. Therefore, efforts to reduce these dust exposures are generally recommended.

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