Ethyl acrylate: influence of sex or atopy on perceptual ratings and eye blink frequency

  • Kirsten SuckerEmail author
  • Frank Hoffmeyer
  • Christian Monsé
  • Birger Jettkant
  • Hans Berresheim
  • Nina Rosenkranz
  • Monika Raulf
  • Jürgen Bünger
  • Thomas Brüning
Organ Toxicity and Mechanisms


Occupational exposure limits (OELs) are derived for protection from health hazards, assuming that exposed subjects are healthy adult workers. Whether differences in susceptibility to sensory irritation effects from airborne chemicals have to be taken into account is currently under discussion. Thus, we chose atopics as a healthy but possibly susceptible subpopulation that can be identified with a clinical test. To investigate the influence of sex or atopy on sensitivity to airborne chemicals, 22 subjects were exposed for 4 h to ethyl acrylate at three concentrations: 0.05 ppm (odor threshold; sham), 5 ppm (constant), and varying exposure between 0 and 10 ppm. Odor intensity decreased and eye irritation ratings increased in a dose-dependent manner, reflecting the time course of the exposure scenarios. The reports of moderate-to-strong eye irritation were verified by significant increases in eye blink frequency. Our results show that women reported subjective eye irritation to an increasing degree. However, these sex-related differences in ratings could not be verified by objective assessment of eye blink frequency. Atopic subjects reported higher odor intensity than non-atopic subjects, but only during the sham (odorous but not irritating) exposure condition. Differences in ratings on annoyance, and eye or nose irritation were not found. Furthermore, the study revealed that atopic subjects might belong to a group of subjects with frequent eye blink activity. Although the relative increase in blink rates was more pronounced in non-atopic subjects, atopic subjects had significant higher blink rates at the end of the exposure to varying ethyl acrylate concentrations. Our results do not support that atopy enhances chemosensory effects if only the increase of blink rates and not the absolute height are considered as adverse effect. Nevertheless, the results indicate that individuals with frequent eye blink activity should be distinguished from those with normal eye blink activity while investigating blink rates as objective parameter of eye irritation.


Ethyl acrylate Sensory irritation Eye blink frequency Susceptibility Atopy 



The authors would like to thank all participants as well as the staff of the working group for conduction the experiment and the extensive chemical and physiological analyses.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

204_2019_2568_MOESM1_ESM.docx (553 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 553 kb)


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Prevention and Occupational Medicine of the German Social Accident Insurance, Institute of the Ruhr-University Bochum (IPA)BochumGermany

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