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28.04.2016 | Original Article | Ausgabe 6/2016

International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health 6/2016

Multidimensional assessment of self-reported chemical intolerance and its impact on chemosensory effects during ammonia exposure

Zeitschrift:
International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health > Ausgabe 6/2016
Autoren:
Marlene Pacharra, Stefan Kleinbeck, Michael Schäper, Meinolf Blaszkewicz, Christoph van Thriel

Abstract

Purpose

Healthy individuals differ in self-reported chemical intolerance (CI). It is unclear whether this inter-individual variability impacts well-being and performance in environmental and occupational settings with chemical exposures. So far, operational definitions and questionnaires of CI have either emphasized physical symptoms or affective/behavioral disruption. In contrast, this study focused on healthy individuals who reported strong CI which generalized to awareness, physiology, affect, and behavior. We investigated whether generalized self-reported CI is associated with hyper-reactivity and reduced cognitive functioning due to chemosensory-mediated distraction during ammonia exposure.

Methods

An online sample (N = 321) answered established CI questionnaires. Based on the convergent self-reports in these questionnaires, healthy women with generalized CI and healthy female control participants were selected (total N = 26). Baseline characterization was performed using implicit association, lung and olfactory function tests, health-related self-reports, plasma inflammatory and metabolic markers. Performance in neurobehavioral tasks, perceptual ratings, nasal inflammatory, neuroendocrine, and autonomic nervous system reactivity were examined by means of a 75-min whole-body challenge to ammonia (stepwise increase: 0–10 ppm).

Results

Correlational analyses confirmed the multidimensionality of CI. Participants with generalized self-reported CI exhibited better olfactory function and reported stronger pungency during the challenge than controls. Cognitive performance and physiological response to the challenge were comparable between the two groups.

Conclusions

Self-reports of CI are complex and not easily assessed by unidimensional questionnaires. While generalized self-reported CI is associated with altered chemosensory processing, it seems unlikely that it modulates health effects and cognitive functioning during chemical exposure.

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