Isocyanates are well documented as a cause of occupational asthma. A hypersensitivity pneumonitis type of reaction has also been reported but only in a few isolated cases. We investigated nine subjects who complained of respiratory and general symptoms related to workplace exposure. All the subjects had worked in a plant where a resin based on diphenylmethane diisocyanate (MDI) is used in the manufacture of wood-chip boards. They underwent inhalation challenges using the MDI resin for progressively increasing periods of time on separate days. In eight subjects, exposure to subirritant amounts of MDI induced a pattern of reaction consistent with hypersensitivity pneumonitis, i.e., significant falls in both FEV1 and FVC associated with a rise in body temperature (> 38° C) and an increase in blood neutrophils (> +2,500/mm3). Bronchoalveolar lavage, performed in two subjects 24 h after the end of challenge exposure, revealed an increase in lymphocytes and neutrophils. Specific immunoglobulin G (IgG) and IgE antibodies to MDI human serum albumin (HSA) conjugates were present in all subjects. We conclude that the MDI resin caused an hypersensitivity pneumonitis type of reaction in at least eight (4.7%) of the 167 potentially exposed workers employed in the plant. These findings indicate that in some workplaces, a hypersensitivity pneumonitis type of reaction may be a more frequent consequence of isocyanate exposure than is usually thought.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine