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Exposure to airborne mycotoxins: the riskiest working environments and tasks.

OBJECTIVES: There is growing interest in the role of airborne mycotoxins in occupational environments, however, their impact on human health still remains poorly investigated. This review aims to provide a comprehensive analysis of the existing literature on the occurrence of inhalable mycotoxins in working environments to investigate which sectors and tasks are at greater risk of exposure.

METHODS: We have performed a systematic search in the PubMed, Scopus and Web of Science databases from 2010 to date, without limitation of geographic location.

RESULTS: Database searches yielded 350 articles. After the removal of duplicates and applying our inclusion and exclusion criteria, 31 papers remained. Results show that the most exposed workers are those engaged in activities related to animal care and management and, in particular, in feeding tasks, while harvester cleaning seems to be the activity with the highest levels of exposure in agriculture. In healthcare settings mycotoxin concentrations are low but HVAC systems can be a source of contamination and this reinforces the relevance of further studies in this sector. The most common scenario is the exposure to multiple mycotoxins with variable concentrations depending on the working environment, the products handled or the tasks performed by workers. Some authors emphasize the importance of multi-approach sampling and analysis protocols to achieve an accurate and more realistic risk characterization.

CONCLUSIONS: Results brought forward by this review can be utilized by health and safety professionals to recognize activities in which workers may be potentially exposed to airborne mycotoxins and thus undertake suitable preventive and protective measures.

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