According to a study published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, enzymes used in household products are potent allergens and have pegged them as posing potential health risks.
Researchers involved with the study recommend testing products for their allergenicity, after they found that exposure to such enzymes can sensitize those, who encounter them in the workplace.
Researchers say that the genetically modified enzymes used to boost the power of cleaning products, create flavourings or aromas, are being increasingly used in the food, beverage, detergent, perfume, pharmaceutical, textile and chemical industries. But genetically engineering the enzyme protein may change its allergenic properties, they added.
The research team examined blood samples from 813 people who work in food, chemical, detergent and pharmaceutical industries and measured specific antibodies to artificially created enzymes.
The subjects had been employed in their respective industries for periods ranging from three months to 10 years and had been exposed to, on average, between two and four genetically modified enzymes in the workplace.
Each blood sample was tested for antibodies to various enzymes using the researchers’ own diagnostic tests as the commercially available options only test for naturally occurring enzymes.
Almost one in four of the employees (23 percent) had specific antibodies to the genetically modified enzymes to which they were routinely exposed during working hours.
Though the researchers said that due to commercial secrecy, they were unable to gain access to the formulations used in the enzymes.
“Our findings indicate that new sources of enzymes, as well as genetically engineered enzymes, are posing potential health risks. Genetically engineered enzymes are potent allergens eliciting immediate-type sensitization. The assessment of allergenicity should be mandatory for all new products. Enzymes should be tested like any other potentially hazardous chemical,” the researchers concluded.