Soy factory workers may be at greater risk for asthma

By Tom Nordlie • Published: October 21st, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Every job involves some health hazards.

Some of those hazards are preventable, like wet floors or bad lighting. Others are intrinsic to the work.

Case in point… soybean processing and its supposed link to respiratory problems.

The issue is well-known, and controversial.

Previous research results have been mixed.

But a study published in the European Respiratory Journal suggests the link is real.

It showed that factory workers exposed to soybean dust were at elevated risk for asthma.

And the data suggest two factors were involved… sensitivity to soy, and the amount of dust exposure workers received.

The study focused on a Tennessee factory that turned soy flakes into powdered products.

Workers there requested the study, based on their own observations and concerns.

All employees were invited to take part in the study. About half responded.

Participants answered health questionnaires and took tests to gauge their lung function and sensitivity to soy.

The researchers took air samples from work stations to determine the amount of dust in the air at various times.

Overall, the participants had a seventy percent greater incidence of asthma than is typical for the U.S. adult population.

Workers sensitive to soy were six times more likely to report work-related asthma symptoms than those who weren’t sensitive.

And production workers who encountered lots of airborne dust had nine times the risk of work-related asthma symptoms compared with the factory’s office workers.

So, this study may not end the controversy over soy exposure.

It does shows one thing… sometimes you have to be your own advocate.

So watch out for workplace hazards.

And if you think something on the job is compromising your health, see your doctor.