IRSST - Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail

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Development of a method for analyzing subtilisin and evaluation of exposure levels in a university hospital


Subtilisin is a family of water-soluble enzymes obtained through a bacterial fermentation process. It is found in many workplaces in the form of powder or liquid preparations; hospitals use it mainly as a degreasing and presterilizing agent. Its maximum exposure threshold in Québec is 0.00006 mg/m³, and the recirculation of air in a room where it is used is prohibited. Subtilisin can cause lung sensitivity which can degrade into occupational asthma. At present, there is no specific standard method for measuring ambient concentrations of this enzyme from an occupational health and safety (OHS) perspective.

In this study, researchers will gather information from the scientific literature and will contact interested OHS research institutes to determine the most appropriate methods for documenting airborne concentrations of subtilisin in the workplace. One method will be chosen, adapted to the specific context of a hospital, and implemented in the IRSST laboratories. Subtilisin concentrations will then be measured at various workstations in a hospital centre. These measurements can be used to identify the departments with the highest levels of worker exposure, and recommendations will be made to each department on ways to control exposure levels (local ventilation, used of fume hoods, isolation of procedures, respiratory and skin protection, etc.).

The analysis method developed may have applications in other workplaces. Among other things, this study will generate the expertise needed to develop methods specific to other enzymes that have OHS implications.

Additional Information

Type: Project
Number: 0099-9010
Status: Completed
Year of completion: 2016