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We conducted a 1-year cross-sectional survey of 474 employees of a large chemical manufacturing complex to relate trimellitic anhydride (TMA) exposure to serologic and clinical outcomes. In 1988–1989, employees were evaluated by history and immunologic assay of total (T) and IgE antibody to trimellityl human serum albumin (TM-HSA). All employees were assigned to a TMA exposure class, from 1 (highest) to 5 (lowest), by an industrial hygienist, independent of the clinical and immunological data. Thirty-two (6.8%) of 474 employees had a TMA immunologic syndrome, 31.6% with an irritant response and 61.6% with no symptoms. Twelve had asthma/rhinitis, 10 had the late respiratory systemic syndrome (LRSS), four had late onset asthma, one had late onset arthralgia, and five had a distant history of LRSS. Included in this survey of the entire work force were 321 new enrollees, who had not joined the previous(1976 to 1988) voluntary surveillance program. Only four (1.3%) of the new enrollee group had a TMA immunologic syndrome. Among new enrollees, there were lower mean total and IgE serum antibody levels in lower exposure classes and a higher percentage with elevated antibody levels in high exposure classes (for T, x2 = 17.5, p = .0016, for IgE, x2 = 76.7, p < .0001). In the new enrollee population, demographic variables of age, sex, date of hire, and smoking status were examined related to antibody levels. Only current or former smoking was related to elevated total antibody levels.
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