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Respiratory allergy symptoms due to exposure to chalk dust containing casein


Reviewed: 4/25/19
Can you provide information about the possibility of a reaction to chalk dust with a child who is diagnosed with a milk or egg allergy? There is information on the NAVAN web site stating there is a relationship due to casein used as a binder in some chalks.


The admonition that milk-allergic children might have allergic respiratory tract symptoms upon exposure to casein contained in chalk dust is based upon information contained in the article abstracted below. Based on this article, one can conclude that such reactions are possible, but the frequency of occurrence of such reactions has not been established, and to the best of my knowledge, there have been no subsequent reports of this phenomenon. Thus, all one can say is that such reactions are possible, but are of unknown incidence.

Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2013 May;110(5):335-9. doi: 10.1016/j.anai.2013.02.006. Epub 2013 Feb 27.
Allergenicity of casein containing chalk in milk allergic schoolchildren.
Larramendi CH, Marco FM, Llombart M, de la Vega A, Chiner E, García-Abujeta JL, Sempere JM.
Sección de Alergia, Hospital Marina Baixa, Villajoyosa, Alicante, Spain.
Background: Nondietary exposure to milk proteins may be a risk for children who do not outgrow milk allergy by school age.
Objective: To study the allergenicity of casein containing chalk.
Methods: A 6-year-old, milk allergic child developed asthma and rhinoconjunctivitis while in school. The suspected cause was dust-free chalk containing casein. To study the relationship of dust-free chalk containing casein with asthma and rhinoconjunctivitis, 13 additional milk allergic patients were studied: 3 school-aged children, 8 preschool-aged infants, and 2 children with outgrown milk allergy. Skin tests and/or specific IgE with chalk and casein were performed. A chalk use test was performed in older children. Milk allergens contained in chalk were characterized by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, immunoblot, and IgE inhibition experiments.
Results: All school-aged, milk allergic children were exposed to chalk and reported symptoms attributed to chalk exposure. The skin test result to chalk was positive in 5 of 12 cases, and the specific IgE test result was positive in all 12 study participants in which it was performed. Casein strongly inhibited the binding of IgE to chalk. Chalk sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis showed proteins with molecular weight similar to caseins. Immunoblot demonstrated strong binding of IgE to chalk in a blurred pattern and a band at 30 kDa, inhibited by casein. The chalk challenge test result was positive in 2 school-age children who had a positive skin test result to chalk. Their symptoms improved after avoidance of chalk in the school. In 2 other cases in which the challenge test result was negative, chalk was reintroduced without problems.
Conclusion: Inhalation of chalk dust containing casein can induce asthma symptoms in milk allergic patients. Hidden and nondietary sources of exposure should always be considered in food allergic patients.

Phil Lieberman, M.D.