Brassica oleracea pollen, a new source of occupational allergens


Dr A.C. Knulst
Postbox 85500
the Netherlands


Background:  Vegetable pollen is a rare source of occupational allergens. Occupational allergy has only been described in the case of paprika pollen and tomato pollen. We describe a new source of occupational pollen allergy.

Aim:  To study the incidence and the impact of broccoli and cauliflower pollen allergy in employees involved in classical plant breeding.

Methods:  Fifty-four employees of five companies working with cauliflower (Brassica oleracea botrytis) and broccoli (B. oleracea italica/cymosa) pollen were eligible for complete evaluation. Allergy to cauliflower and broccoli pollen was evaluated by questionnaire and determination of sensitization by radioallergosorbent test (RAST) and skin-prick tests (SPT). SPT and RAST were performed with a panel of commercial and homemade extracts from cauliflower and broccoli pollen.

Results:  Work-related symptoms such as rhinitis, conjunctivitis, asthma and urticaria caused by B. oleracea pollen were reported by 44% of the participants (24/54), of whom all but one had positive SPT for cauliflower- and/or broccoli-pollen/flower extracts and 58% (14/24) had positive RAST results. Symptoms had developed within the first 2 years in 33% of the patients. Six patients had to stop or change work.

Conclusions: Brassica oleracea pollen is a new source of occupational allergen with strong allergenic potential leading to symptoms in almost half of the exposed employees.