American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Annual Meeting

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Annual Meeting

March 04, 2017
2 min read

Nearly 5 million adults have work-related asthma

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ATLANTA — Data showed as many as 4.7 million working adults have work-related asthma, with health care support workers facing the most significant risk, according to findings presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

“Workers in certain industries and occupations may be at an increased risk for work-related asthma and asthma attacks in relation to work,” Jacek M. Mazurek, MD, MS, PhD, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, CDC, Morgantown, West Virginia, told Healio Family Medicine. “The high asthma prevalence among certain industries and occupations suggests substantial contribution of occupational exposures to the overall burden of asthma.”

Jacek M. Mazurek

Mazurek and Girija Syamlal, MBBS, MPH, also of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, analyzed data from 141 million adults aged 18 and older who participated in the National Health Interview Survey from 2009 to 2014. Data from adults who indicated they were employed the week prior to the survey, and those who had ever been told by a physician they had asthma, and still had asthma, were considered for the study.

Researchers found that the current overall asthma prevalence among working adults  was 6.5% (95% CI, 6.3-6.7), with about 51% of that incidence related to work. The highest occurrence was in health care and social assistance industries, according to researchers. he.

“This finding is consistent with previous studies reporting high work-related asthma prevalence that was associated with exposure to potential asthmagens in health care settings. For example, disinfectants and sterilants (eg, glutaraldehyde, formaldehyde), pharmaceuticals (eg, psyllium, antibiotics), sensitizing metals (eg, dental alloys), methacrylates, irritant aerosolized medications, and cleaning products were associated with work-related asthma in these settings,” Mazurek said. “Health care workers who were involved in cleaning and disinfecting instruments, used general cleaning products, used powdered latex gloves, or administered aerosolized medications have higher risk of developing asthma.”

Mazurek and Syamal also reported that the adjusted asthma prevalence OR was significantly elevated in protective service occupations (POR = 1.3), health care and social assistance industries (POR = 1.17), education, training and library occupations (POR = 1.17) and education services (POR = 1.12) industries.

Mazurek offered suggestions for clinicians to help their patients who may be at risk for asthma or already have the condition.

“Primary preventive efforts need to be concentrated on exposure elimination or reduction through improved exposure controls accompanied by intense educational programs within at-risk workforces. Detailed work history, job duties, exposures information, industry, and onset of asthma symptoms or worsening [of symptoms] at work will provide suggestive evidence of a workplace association,” he said. In most cases when a worker has work-related asthma, the doctor and the patient should focus on trying to identify triggers and reducing exposure to those agents, while staying on the job.”

Previously published research has suggested that few patients communicate with clinicians about job-related asthma. – by Janel Miller


Mazurek, JM, Syamlal, G. Abstract 77. Presented at: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Annual Meeting; March 3-6, 2017; Atlanta.

Disclosure: Mazurek reports no relevant disclosures. Healio Family Medicine was unable to confirm Syamal’s relevant disclosures prior to publication.