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Thermal Printer Chemical Can Provoke Asthma Symptoms

Case of woman printing lottery tickets in a kiosk spotlights an unusual case of occupational asthma

WEDNESDAY, May 27 (HealthDay News) -- A job printing lottery tickets with a thermal printer in a tiny kiosk paid off in acute asthma symptoms for a 62-year-old woman, according to a case report in the May 28 New England Journal of Medicine.

Silvia Sanchez-Garcia, M.D., of the Fundacion Jimenez Diaz in Madrid, Spain, and colleagues report that the woman had worked for 20 years selling lottery tickets from the kiosk, but only began working with the thermal printer three years ago. Her asthma symptoms began two-and-a-half years ago, including cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, rhinoconjunctivitis and facial edema. The symptom flare-ups occurred shortly after reporting to work and eased during time off.

Initial examination detected no atopy and found spirometric measurements to be normal, the researchers write. Physicians recreated the woman's workplace by confining her in a small room and having her paint cardboard with the tint used in the thermal printer, which contained trimethylolpropane triacrylate. Within 30 seconds of exposure, the woman's forced expiratory volume decreased 19 percent, and a second exposure for 90 seconds resulted in a 45 percent reduction. The experiment was later repeated with the actual thermal printer from work with similar results, the authors note.

"Acrylates are known causative agents of occupational asthma, and workers in printing facilities may be affected. However, this description of occupational asthma in a worker using a point-of-sale terminal indicates that such a diagnosis should be considered in cases of adult-onset asthma in workers exposed to these devices," the authors conclude.

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