Enzymes have a very good safety profile. The exceptions to the safety profile are the ability of some enzyme products containing protease enzymes to cause irritating effects at high concentrations, and the intrinsic respiratory sensitization potential of all enzymes.
Such sensitization may cause respiratory allergy in individuals exposed repeatedly to sufficiently high airborne concentrations of enzyme dust or aerosols.
Respiratory allergy caused by enzymes is similar to the respiratory allergy caused by well-known allergens like grass pollen, house dust mites or cat dander, and the symptoms from an enzyme allergy are also similar to the symptoms known from allergies towards grass pollen, house dust mites, cat dander etc.
Both the irritating effect by enzyme products containing protease and the sensitizing potential intrinsic to all enzymes can be controlled by proper process control, product formulation, and adequate handling instructions to avoiding dust or aerosols.
Very detailed guidelines for control of enzyme exposure in production facilities can be found in the “Guidelines for the safe handling of enzymes in detergent manufacturing” published by The international Association for Soaps, Detergents and Maintenance Products (AISE, 2013). This guideline was developed for the detergent industry, but the principles stated are generally applicable and should be used by all industries.
Enzyme suppliers can advise or provide more detailed information and support related to the specific enzyme preparation and the handling situation.