Occupational rhinitis has been a prescribed industrial disease in the UK since 1907. It has only relatively recently received significant attention from otorhinolaryngologists although numerous studies have been performed in the past by occupational and industrial health physicians. At the present time the precise mechanisms of pathogenesis are unclear and would appear to be multiple.
Recently interest has arisen because of compensation claims. Diagnosis made on the basis of the clinical history is subject to two problems: firstly, there is difficulty in differentiating between occupational and nonoccupational rhinitis, and secondly, clinical histories can easily be feigned. Physical signs would be a more reliable indicator of occupational damage to the nasal mucosa if they differ from the signs normally found in allergic or vasomotor rhinitis. In a series of 100 shipyard workers dry atrophic nasal mucosa was found in 66and septal ulceration in two. From their clinical histories 78 individuals complained of nasal obstruction, 28 of epistaxis, 42 of hyposmia, 10 of anosmia and 90 of rhinorrhoea. Possible pathogenesis is described