Characterization of endotoxin and mouse allergen exposures in mouse facilities and research laboratories

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Peer Reviewed


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Journal/Book/Conference Title

Annals of Occupational Hygiene

DOI of Published Version


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OBJECTIVES: Researchers and technicians who use mice in research are exposed to complex mixtures containing mouse allergen, endotoxin and particulates from animals, bedding and feed. The particle characteristics of these different exposures, and whether they are encountered together or separately, are important to better understand their adjuvant and allergic effects. Endotoxin and mouse allergen are derived from the same animal source, but have different physicochemical attributes. It is not known if airborne exposures to these agents are correlated in the laboratory animal workplace. METHODS: Side-by-side personal and area samples for airborne endotoxin (52), mouse allergen (46) and total particulates (43) were obtained in the animal facility and laboratories of a medical research institution. Animal handlers and researchers reported time spent on work tasks with mice, symptoms upon exposure to mice and mouse sensitization was determined by skin test or RAST. RESULTS: Mean airborne endotoxin exposure was highest during mouse experiments in the animal facility at 960 pg m(-3), peaked at 3125 pg m(-3), and ranged from 46 to 678 pg m(-3) with work in mouse rooms and research labs. Mouse allergen concentrations were highest during direct mouse work and background in research labs (mean 63-68 ng m(-3), range 41-271 ng m(-3)), but were undetectable during mouse research performed under a hood. Endotoxin and mouse allergen concentrations were correlated during direct research with mice and mouse care activities. Particle counts were low, typically < 1 cm(-3), varied widely, and exhibited peaks and valleys during different work tasks. From 80-90% of particles were < 1 microm in aerodynamic diameter during background measurements. The contribution of respirable particles 1-5 microm in size increased to 25-30% during mouse care and mouse research activities, but we found no association between any particle size and endotoxin or mouse allergen concentrations. Animal handlers and researchers in the mouse facility were exposed to the highest daily endotoxin concentrations, whereas researchers working with mice in the mouse facility and in laboratories were exposed to the highest daily mouse allergen concentrations. CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that endotoxin and mouse allergen are co-exposures during mouse handling and research, and that control of exposure peaks may be necessary to limit allergic disease in the laboratory animal workplace.



Published Article/Book Citation

Annals of Occupational Hygiene, 50:6 (2006) pp.563-572. DOI:10.1093/annhyg/mel019.

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