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Great British Bake off could be raising asthma risk

The huge popularity of the BBC baking competition Great British Bake Off could be putting thousands of keen wannabe-bakers at risk of developing asthma triggered by flour dust, experts have warned.

The charity AsthmaUK has warned amateur bakers who want to recreate some of the creations shown on the popular television programme that they could be the next victims of occupational asthma.

Over 3,000 people – many of them professional bakers or those who work in a flour-saturated environment – develop occupational asthma each year, a condition which occurs after the patient has inhaled substances known as ‘respiratory sensitisers’ over a reasonably long period of time. In some people, these sensitisers cause asthma symptoms. If exposure to the sensitiser substance continues, then more severe asthma-like symptoms are likely to develop.

This news comes as a report has shown that flour is the main cause of occupational asthma in France. For the country which is known for its baguettes and morning pastries, one in five people with the condition were found to have flour-induced occupational asthma.

Within the UK, more known for its beer, fish and chips and fry-ups instead of baking concoctions, the top cause of occupational asthma has been found to be chemicals called isocyanates which are found in compounds such as spray paints, foam moulding with adhesives, surface coatings and through making foundry cores.

However, home bakers could still be at a huge risk, says Samantha Walker, the Director of Research and Policy at the charity AsthmaUK.

“Baking is not only a career but it is also a hobby enjoyed by millions of people in the UK, as we have seen with the popularity of the Great British Bake Off, and this study highlights just how important it is that occupational asthma is taken seriously. An estimated 3,000 new cases are reported in the UK each year, and bakers are about 80 times more likely to develop occupational asthma than the average worker due to exposure to flour and other bakery dusts.” Samantha summarised.

“We urge anyone who regularly bakes, or who is a baker by profession, and who has experienced breathing problems to discuss these with their GP.” she added.

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