Identification of Sources of Endotoxin Exposure as Input for Effective Exposure Control Strategies

The aim of the present study is to investigate the levels of endotoxins on product samples from potatoes, onions, and seeds, representing a relevant part of the agro-food industry in the Netherlands, to gather valuable insights in possibilities for exposure control measures early in the process of industrial processing of these products. Endotoxin levels on 330 products samples from companies representing the potato, onion, and seed (processing) industry (four potato-packaging companies, five potato-processing companies, five onion-packaging companies, and four seed-processing companies) were assessed using the Limulus Amboecyte Lysate (LAL) assay. As variation in growth conditions (type of soil, growth type) and product characteristics (surface roughness, dustiness, size, species) are assumed to influence the level of endotoxin on products, different types, and growth conditions were considered when collecting the samples. Additionally, waste material, rotten products, felt material (used for drying), and process water were collected. A large variation in the endotoxin levels was found on samples of potatoes, onions, and seeds (overall geometric standard deviation 17), in the range between 0.7 EU g-1 to 16400000 EU g-1. The highest geometric mean endotoxin levels were found in plant material (319600 EU g-1), followed by soil material (49100 EU g-1) and the outer side of products (9300 EU g-1), indicating that removal of plant and soil material early in the process would be an effective exposure control strategy. The high levels of endotoxins found in the limited number of samples from rotten onions indicate that these rotten onions should also be removed early in the process. Mean endotoxin levels found in waste material (only available for seed processing) is similar to the level found in soil material, although the range is much larger. On uncleaned seeds, higher endotoxin levels were found than on cleaned seeds, indicating that cleaning processes are important control measures and also that the waste material should be handled with care. Although endotoxin levels in batches of to-be-processed potatoes, onions, and seeds vary quite dramatically, it could be concluded that rotten products, plant material, and waste material contain particularly high endotoxin levels. This information was used to propose control measures to reduce exposure to endotoxins of workers during the production process.

Authors: van Duuren-Stuurman B, Gröllers-Mulderij M, van de Runstraat A,Duisterwinkel A, Terwoert J, Spaan S. ; Full Source: Annals in Work Exposure & Health. 2017 Dec 30. doi: 10.1093/annweh/wxx102. [Epub ahead of print]