May 16, 2016
1 min read

Asthmagen exposure high among farmers, vocational workers

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Workers in fields in Australia — such as farmers, animal workers and those in vocational jobs — have a high rate of workplace exposure to asthmagens, according to results from a recent study.

Lin Fritschi, PhD, from the School of Public Health at Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia, and colleagues conducted a national telephone survey for 277 different asthmagens stratified across 27 different groups in the Australian Workplace Exposure Study – Asthma, according to the abstract. The researchers polled 4,878 participants (2,441 male; 2,437 female) about job information, job tasks, demographic information and potential exposure to each asthmagen using OccIDEAS, a web-based tool.

They found 47% of men and 40% of women were exposed to at least one asthmagen. The most common exposures in men were bioaerosols (29%) and metals (27%), whereas the most common exposures in women were latex (25%) and sterilizing agents (20%), according to the abstract.

Men were more likely to be exposed if their job was vocational in nature, had no postsecondary qualifications, lived outside major cities or lived inside Victoria or Tasmania. For men, the likelihood of being exposed to at least one asthmagen was highest for farmers and animal workers (97%), woodworkers (96%), metal workers (96%), food preparers (92%) and mechanical workers (92%).

For women, exposure was more common for those who lived in an outside or remote area. Jobs that increased the likelihood of being exposed to at least one asthmagen include farming and animal work (100%), caregivers (99%), cleaners (96%), food preparaters (96%) and nurses (92%).

The researchers estimated when extrapolating to the Australian population that 2.8 million men and 1.7 million women could potentially be exposed, according to the abstract.

“For pulmonary medicine specialists, our study provides an overall picture of which asthmagens are found in which occupations,” Fritschi and colleagues wrote in their study. “While the pattern of use of some agents, such as isocyanates and latex, are well understood, our study provides a wider range of possible causes for physicians to consider in their consultations with patients.” – by Jeff Craven


Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.