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Work environment, occupational diseases and accidents among seafood industry workers in Greenland

Authors

Birgitte Hamann Laustsen1, 2, Niels Erik Ebbehøj3, Torben Sigsgaard4, Kurt Rasmussen5 & Jakob Hjort Bønløkke6

1) Department of Clinical Medicine, The Faculty of Medicine, Danish Ramazzini Centre, Aalborg University, 2) Institute of Nursing & Health Science, Ilisimatusarfik, University of Greenland, Greenland, 3) Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Copenhagen University Hospital – Bispebjerg Hospital, 4) Department of Public Health, Health, Aarhus University, 5) Department of Occupational Medicine, Regional Hospital Vest, 6) Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Danish Ramazzini Centre, Aalborg University Hospital, Denmark

Dan Med J 2022;69(2):A05210470

Abstract

INTRODUCTION. The seafood industry is the largest industry in Greenland. Work-related diseases and accidents appear to constitute health risks in this sector. The aim was to describe the prevalence of work-related diseases and accidents among workers in the seafood industry in Greenland.

METHODS. Data from 311 workers included a questionnaire, lung function measurements, skin prick tests, blood samples, clinical examinations, personal inhalable dust samples and stationary dust measurements. Accident risk was evaluated by work site observations and safety walks. Statistical analyses included mean values and percentage distribution.

RESULTS. Exposure levels were highest in shrimp production; 16.1% were sensitised to snow crab, 10.1% to shrimp and 0.3% to fish; 5.2% had probable occupational asthma. Regarding accidents, the annual incidence rate per 100 workers was 10.3%.

CONCLUSIONS. Workers in the seafood industry in Greenland have a high prevalence of sensitisation to work-related allergens and occupational asthma closely related to high exposures to shrimp and snow crab allergens. The rate of severe workplace injuries was high. Preventive measures are required.

FUNDING. The Health Science Research Council; The Work Environment Council of Greenland; The Greenlandic Workers’ Union; Greenland Business Association; Royal Greenland; Polar Seafood; The BANK of Greenland; The Danish Working Environment Research Fund.

TRIAL REGISTRATION. The Scientific Ethical Committee for Greenland (2015-11317); The Danish Data Protection Agency, the Central Denmark Region (2012-58-006).

The fishing and the seafood processing industries are the dominating industries in Greenland [1]. Allergic diseases, musculoskeletal disorders and accidental injuries have been the primary occupational health problems in studies of worker’s health in these industries worldwide [2, 3]. Studies have reported an increased risk of becoming sensitised and developing allergic symptoms. The prevalence of work-related asthma has varied between 2% and 36% in various seafood processing industries and the prevalence range of occupational rhinitis has varied from 5% to 24% [3]. Previously,...
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Dan Med J 2022;69(2):A05210470
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