By Alexandra Sifferlin
September 8, 2014

Bakers, beware: flour is a primary cause of job-related asthma in France, finds new research.

Researchers analyzed 330 cases of occupational asthma, with data provided by a network of respiratory doctors, over three years. Their findings, which were presented at the European Respiratory Society’s International Congress, showed that flour was the main cause and the culprit in 20% of the cases. The next biggest asthma-inducer at the workplace were the ammonium compounds found in cleaning products, blamed in 15% of cases.

It’s not a new phenomenon and even has a name: “baker’s asthma.” Flour may irritate the respiratory system, and some of the dust and enzymes in flour can cause allergy-related symptoms, researchers think.

The data also shows that people working in food manufacturing were at a greater risk for asthma than people working in agriculture, and women were more likely to suffer from job-related asthma compared to men.

The researchers hope that their study will help inform asthma prevention efforts.

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