Occupational Asthma on the Rise

Now one of the most common forms of occupational lung disease, study says

MONDAY, Aug. 8, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Occupational asthma has become one of the most common forms of occupational lung disease in industrialized countries and accounts for 9 percent to 15 percent of all adult asthma cases, according to a report in the August issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

The Italian authors of the article said the most cost-effective method of lowering the rate of occupational asthma is to reduce workers' exposure to offending agents as soon as possible to prevent sensitization.

Sensitization occurs when a person's airways become inflamed and narrow due to repeated exposure to a noxious substance in the workplace.

Workers in the construction, metal, rubber, plastic, printing and industrial cleaning fields have the greatest risk of occupational asthma, the article said.

The most common form of occupational asthma (accounting for about 90 percent of cases) is induced by the immunoglobulin E (IgE) mechanism or other immune responses to certain workplace substances. These include: wood dust; epoxy compounds in spray paint; animal, plant, insect and fungal allergens; cleaning agents; flour dust; and food and animal protein.

Irritant-induced asthma accounts for about 7 percent of occupational asthma cases. Metal refining, fertilizer manufacturing (with ammonia) and mining are among the industries where workers can develop irritant-based asthma.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about occupational asthma.

SOURCE: American Thoracic Society, news release, Aug. 1, 2005
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