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Investigating Clinical Bronchiolitis Obliterans: clinicians + researchers = team Francine Lortie-Monette, MD, MSc, CSPQ, MBA Department of Epidemiology.

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Presentation on theme: "Investigating Clinical Bronchiolitis Obliterans: clinicians + researchers = team Francine Lortie-Monette, MD, MSc, CSPQ, MBA Department of Epidemiology."— Presentation transcript:

1 Investigating Clinical Bronchiolitis Obliterans: clinicians + researchers = team Francine Lortie-Monette, MD, MSc, CSPQ, MBA Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics University of Western Ontario 2003

2 References  Kreiss K, Gomaa A, Kullman G, Fedan K et al. N Engl J Med 2002;347(5):330-8  Schacter EN, N Engl J Med 2002; 347(5):360-1  NIOSH Fact Sheet July 2002

3 Index Patient  A housewife: 4 First job in October 1993, at the age of 40, on the microwave-popcorn packaging line at the plant. 4 No chest symptoms 4 Had never smoked 4 Walked several hours/day

4 First symptoms  5 months later: 4 Starts coughing about three hours after the start of her evening shift,  without any changes in her work environment or her usual seated job activities and  without any improvement when away from work.

5 Later Symptoms  Two to three weeks later: 4 Myalgias, night sweats, and exercise-induced exacerbation of the cough.  Evolving into: 4 Exertional dyspnea  In April (6 months post DOH): 4 Dry cough becomes productive 4 Allergist diagnoses: bronchitis, hay fever, and asthma 4 Bronchodilator: no improvement in symptoms.

6 Observations – In June:  FEV 1 : 0.86 liter (30% of predicted)  FVC: 2.27 liters (66% of predicted)  Normal diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide.

7 Stopped work  Stops working in mid-June  Having lost 8 lb (3.6 kg) over the course of her employment.  Dyspnea increased, but cough slowly improved.

8 Further tests  In October 1994 (one yr post DOH): 4 Tests worse  Tomography: 4 Minimal, diffuse bronchial-wall thickening; air trapping; and right-upper-lobe granuloma  Thoracoscopic lung biopsy: 4 Scattered, non-necrotizing granulomas; focal bronchiolar fibrosis; fibroblast proliferation compressing one bronchiolar lumen

9 Treatments  No response to high-dose prednisone  Only a symptomatic response to a three- month course of cyclophosphamide  Placed on a waiting list for a lung transplant in November 1995  FEV 1 in December 2001: 0.61 liter (21% of predicted)


11 Identification of a cluster  The Missouri Department of Health learns that, by May 2000, eight persons who had formerly worked at a microwave popcorn plant had been diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans.  No incident of overexposure  Four had worked in the room where microwave popcorn flavoring agents were mixed, and four had worked only in the microwave popcorn packaging area.

12 Diagnosis: Bronchiolitis obliterans  Initiated by damage to the epithelium of the small airways, progressing to inflammation of these airways (and frequently of adjacent alveoli)  Clinical consequence: irreversible airway obstruction

13 Bronchiolitis obliterans  Bronchiolitis has been associated with irritant gases, notably oxides of nitrogen  But also chlorine, phosgene, hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide  Organic and inorganic dusts

14 Bronchiolitis Obliterans  A number of cases in industries not previously associated with this disease, eg 4 Battery workers (thionyl chloride fumes) 4 Workers who sprays paints onto textiles with polyamide-amide dyes), etc  Most often: a cluster of cases leads to investigation

15 The Investigation  The Missouri Department of Health asks NIOSH to investigate.

16 Microwave Popcorn Plant  The plant: 4 A flavor-mixing room 4 A quality control room for popping sample product 4 A maintenance shop 4 Packaging lines where microwavable bags were filled with popcorn and flavorings, packaged and boxed

17 Flavorings  Ingredients of the flavorings included soybean oil, salt, butter flavoring, and coloring agents.  In the mixing room, one worker per shift opened the lid of an oil tank that was heated to approximately 130ºF (54ºC) and added flavorings in batch operations.  Flavoring mixture then pumped into heated holding tanks above the microwave-popcorn packaging lines.  On the packaging lines: kernel popcorn and flavoring mixture added to the microwavable bags by a machine operator; bags then sealed, labeled and boxed; boxes stacked on pallets.

18 The Plant (Cont’d)  Areas of the plant physically separate from the microwave popcorn production area: 4 The warehouse 4 The bag-printing area 4 The line where unflavored kernel popcorn was packaged (in polyethylene bags) 4 The offices where management and clerical activities were performed

19 Air samples  Analysis of air samples from the mixing room: 4 More than 100 volatile organic compounds  There were no known occupational causes of bronchiolitis obliterans identified among these compounds or in the plant at large.  Diacetyl (2, 3-butanedione), a ketone with butter-flavor characteristics, was the predominant compound isolated from air samples.

20 The Challenge  Specific cases of a rare disease have been identified  Their only common element: working at the same plant  No industrial accident  No known toxicant at the plant

21 The Challenge  Lack of evidence re:effects of chemicals is

22 The Plan  Determine condition of other workers at the plant  Study what substance most likely associated with symptoms

23 Medical Survey  Trained interviewers administered a standardized questionnaire about respiratory, mucous-membrane, and constitutional symptoms and work history  Compared responses with data from identical questions on the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III)

24 Medical Survey (Cont’d)  Spirometry and measurement of carbon monoxide diffusing capacity;  Comparisons: 4 spirometric reference values NHANES III

25 Assessment of Exposure  Characterized job-specific exposure to diacetyl, by testing air samples from various areas in the plant.  Examined respirable dust samples from employees’ breathing zone and various areas in the plant.  Estimated the cumulative exposure for each participant by summing the products of the time spent at each job and the mean exposure in that job area. (four quartiles according to rank order of increasing cumulative exposure to diacetyl).

26 Characteristics of Workers  97 worked in the microwave popcorn production area of the plant.  Of these: 4 6 reported having changed job assignments at the plant because of breathing difficulties

27 Exposure  Levels of diacetyl exposure: 4 Mixing room employees exposed to roughly 800 times the level to which workers in the internal reference group were exposed, 4 55 times that to which the quality-control and maintenance workers were exposed, 4 15 times that to which workers on the microwave popcorn packaging lines were exposed.

28 Bronchiolitis Obliterans in Microwave-Popcorn Workers

29 Exposure Outside the Popcorn Plant  Farming (40%)  Grain dust (32%)  Irritant gases (14%)  Nitrogen oxides (8%)

30 Exposure to Diacetyl

31 Bronchiolitis Obliterans in Microwave-Popcorn Workers

32 Prevalence of Health-Related Outcomes  Ratio of observed to expected prevalence of health-related outcomes, with expected rates based on rates from NHANES III, after adjustment for age and smoking status; the current workers reported: times the prevalence of chronic cough times the prevalence of exertional shortness of breath 4 3 times the prevalence of wheezing (other than wheezing due to colds)

33 Prevalence of Health-Related Outcomes (Cont’d)  Overall, current employees had 3.3 times the expected rate of airway obstruction. The prevalence of airway obstruction increased with increasing age in both current and former smokers at the plant and especially in workers who had never smoked: 4 The prevalence ratios in this subgroup were 11.4 among workers 40 years old or older and 3.8 among those younger than 40.

34 Relation between Exposures and Health-Related Outcomes  Workers in the microwave-popcorn production areas (including quality-control and maintenance workers): significantly higher rates of exertional shortness of breath, regular trouble with breathing, a combination of two or more respiratory symptoms, unusual fatigue, and any systemic symptoms than minimally exposed workers in other areas of the plant. The rate of rashes or other skin problems since the date of hire was also significantly higher among workers in the microwave-popcorn production areas than among those in other areas.

35 Airway Obstruction  The prevalence of airway obstruction increased with increasing cumulative exposure to diacetyl.  Of other indexes of exposure, working in the quality-control room at the plant was significantly associated with airway obstruction, after adjustment for age and smoking status.

36 Airway Obstruction (Cont’d)  The combination of fixed airway obstruction with normal findings on chest radiography is best explained by bronchiolitis obliterans, which had been recognized in 8 former workers.  In contrast to most examples of occupational constrictive bronchiolitis obliterans, neither the former workers nor the current workers reported a distinct episode of overexposure that preceded the onset of symptoms.

37 Severity of Symptoms  Unlike occupational asthma, no temporal relation existed between working at the plant and the severity of symptoms over the course of the workday or workweek.  Thus, the association of this endemic disease with exposures in the workplace was largely unsuspected by the workers, their physicians and plant managers.

38 “Healthy-Worker Effect”  Cross-sectional surveys of occupational hazards underestimate health-related outcomes because of the “Healthy-Worker Effect.”  In this plant, 8 former workers were known to have left their jobs because of lung disease, thus leaving a healthier workforce that did not carry the entire burden of disease.  Workers who changed assignments because of respiratory problems were included in analyses of current exposure as having these problems in their current assignments, an assumption that may be inaccurate.  Analyses of cumulative exposure in relation to indexes of airway obstruction partially correct for this limitation.

39 Diacetyl levels  In inhalation studies, butter-flavoring vapors producing diacetyl levels of 352 ppm damaged respiratory epithelium in the airways of rats.  NIOSH scientists chose this exposure level as one similar to that of possible peak levels in the space above the heated oil within the mixing or holding tanks in the popcorn plant.  A peak diacetyl level of 1230 ppm was later measured in this space in a tank holding the same butter flavoring tested in the animal studies.

40 Diacetyl levels (Cont’d)  Damage in the rats extended below the basement membrane of sloughed respiratory epithelium, suggesting that repair would probably involve airway fibrosis.  These preliminary findings in animals suggest that a volatile ingredient in the butter flavoring is a biologically plausible cause of the respiratory effects seen in the workers in the popcorn plant.  Support for this hypothesis comes from the findings of a health-hazard investigation at a company that mixed flavorings in cornstarch for the baking industry.

41 Recommendations  The use of air-purifying respirators with cartridges that filter organic vapors and particulates to decrease exposures to flavorings and isolation of ventilation in the mixing room from that in other areas of the plant.  Workers with symptoms or obstructive abnormalities advised to seek medical counsel regarding diagnosis, smoking cessation, immunization, and the advisability of continued exposure in the workplace, with or without respiratory protection.

42 Also:  What else was new in that study?  Studied symptoms throughout the plant, identifying subclinical disease 4 If this = smoldering bronchiolitis obliterans, even more workers may be at risk for progressive pulmonary disease 4 More widespread control measures may be needed than simply identification of clusters of cases (eg in industries with irritant dusts, gases, fumes)

43 Conclusions  Alarm sounded by astute clinician  Investigation did not stop at “no known toxicant”  Results: will help protect the help of workers

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