“Baker´s asthma” is a type of occupational asthma, frequently found in bakery industries, it has been linked to the inhalation of dust particles in the work place, and has no direct link to the patient´s medical history or clinical records. In fact Baker´s asthma, is a risk which could affect all operators involved in the production, preparation and baking process of bread and other bakery and pastry products.
The risk of exposure to the illness is derived mostly from the proximity and close contact to flour dust. Flour dust is defined as any and all finely ground particles which come from cereal or vegetables with other contaminants, which are freed during the process of grinding and later use of the flour. The main allergens involved are wheat flour and its derivatives, additives and microorganisms.
Flour dust is a dangerous substance, which can cause allergy rhinitis and occupational asthma. Currently it is estimated that occupational asthma affects 25% of workers in the bakery industry (bakeries, pastry shops, pizzerias, and other production units).
his is an illness which produces an elevated rate of absentees, medical leaves and occupational illnesses, generating a high number of economical and legal problems.
Since the Roman Empire there have existed ways of preventing illnesses due to the inhalation of flour dust. In ancient times prevention was done through the use of face masks by workers.
Currently, prevention is made through a combination of precautions and good practices, which minimize the occurrence of flour dust in the workplace. Practices which span various scopes and that all together, allow for a better workplace. Here are a few examples:
- in the organization of the workplace, which includes all types of production processes in existence in the bakery: the stowing away of raw materials, preparation of doughs, and distribution of baked products, amongst others;
- in the equipment and accessories used, collectively and individually, namely in the use of spiral mixers with closed lids on the bowls, and industrial vacuums, amongst others;
- in the protection equipments used by individual workers with different tasks in the workplace;
- as well as the work techniques used.