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Physical and Biological Hazards of the Workplace, 3rd Edition by Peter H. Wald, Gregg M. Stave

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Chapter 28ALLERGENS

David C. Caretto*

ENZYMES

Common names: Detergents, digestive aids, dough improvers, papain, others

Occupational setting

Enzymes are used in the chemical, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, textile, medical, detergent, and food and beverage industries. Paper and pulp industries use enzymes to break down wastes. Cellulase is used as a digestive aid. Aspergillus-derived alpha-amylase and cellulase are added to flour as dough improvers. Enzymes derived from Bacillus subtilis, such as alcalase (subtilisin A), are used in the detergent industry as an aid in removing stains from clothing. Papain and other enzymes are used in pharmaceutical products where the manufacturing process may involve sieving, blending, and compressing powders. Papain also has uses as a meat tenderizer (which use has resulted in illness in industrial kitchens), in the treatment of wool and silk for textiles, and in clarifying beer. Trypsin, a pancreatic enzyme, is used in the rubber industry.

Exposure (route)

Enzyme powders tend to be fine and easily airborne. Exposure to enzymes may occur through inhalation of enzyme dusts or through skin contact with liquid enzyme preparations or airborne dust. Dust may impact the upper airways or be carried directly into the lungs.

Pathobiology

Enzymes are proteins that catalyze chemical reactions. They are usually high-molecular-weight proteins and are effective in very small quantities. Cellulase catalyzes the cellulose to glucose reaction, xylanase catalyzes ...

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