Nurses, Printers at Increased Asthma Risk
1 in 4 new cases linked to on-the-job exposures, research suggests
FRIDAY, July 27, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Nurses, printers and woodworkers are more likely than the average population to develop work-related asthma, according to a European research team that is calling for more monitoring of workers' exposure to chemicals that could cause the illness.
Workplace conditions may be responsible for one out of four new asthma cases in industrialized countries, the team found. They analyzed health information and workplace exposure details from more than 6,800 people who participated in the European Community Respiratory Health Survey between 1990 and 1995.
None of the participants had asthma at the beginning of the nine-year study. Exposure to possible asthma-causing substances was calculated using an "asthma-specific job exposure matrix" with additional insight from asthma experts.
Writing in the July 27 issue of The Lancet, the researchers reported that exposure to substances known to cause occupational asthma increased the risk of asthma by an average of 60 percent. The occupations with the greatest excess risk were printing (137 percent), nursing (122 percent), woodworking (122 percent), agriculture/forestry (85 percent), and cleaning (71 percent).
The risk of asthma tripled after certain incidents, such as fires, mixed cleaning products or chemical spills, leading the researchers to highlight the importance of following up with workers after similar events.
The increased risk for nurses was of particular interest to the researchers, who theorized that the high rate of asthma in that profession could be attributed to sensitizing substances, respiratory allergens, and irritants including sterilizers and disinfectants such as glutaraldehyde or bleach, as well as latex in the early 1990s.
To learn more about asthma, visit the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.