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A Nose for Pizza Ovens

May 10, 1999|JANE E. ALLEN

So you think pizza makers have it easy, tossing dough high in the air, ladling on sauce and sprinkling mozzarella, then pulling a molten pie from the oven? Think again, amici. Years of shoving tomato and cheese pies in and out of 500-degree industrial ovens takes a toll on the dough boys' nasal passages.

Dr. David Rosenberg, an otolaryngologist at the Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital in New York City (home of Ray's, Ray's Famous, Original Ray's and other pizza parlors), noticed that three 60-plus patients with inexplicably severe nasal damage worked around hot pizza ovens. Intrigued, Rosenberg made the rounds of 27 pizzerias and studied the nasal passages of 39 bakers. The greater their exposure to heat, the worse their nasal symptoms, he found, although, unlike his three patients, none had nasal perforations.

Rosenberg calculated that a pizza maker averaged a 90-second blast of intense heat with each pizza. Then, to come up with total "oven blast time," he found out how many pizzas they made daily and how many days they worked weekly, and calculated total exposure. A statistical analysis revealed that those exposed to more than 495 hellish minutes weekly suffered severe nasal dryness and crusting.

Rosenberg, who presented his results last month to the American Rhinologic Society in Palm Springs, suspects that over decades, extreme heat breaks down the nasal lining and perforates the septum.

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