Nurses, printers, and woodworkers are more likely than people in the general population to get work-related asthma, according to findings from the European Community Respiratory Health Survey. Exposure to certain chemicals in the workplace could be to blame.
Researchers analyzed health information and workplace exposure to substances known to cause occupational asthma in a study involving 6,837 people, none of whom had asthma at the start of the 9-year study. Exposure to substances known to cause asthma increased the risk of asthma by 60%, on average. The professions with the greatest risk were printing (137% increased risk), nursing (122%), and woodworking (122%).
Researchers theorized that nurses may be at greater risk because of their exposure to sensitizing substances, allergens, and irritants such as sterilizing agents, disinfectants (including glutaraldehyde and bleach), and latex.
The risk of developing asthma triples among workers after certain occurrences, such as fires, mixing cleaning agents, and chemical spills. Researchers call for better monitoring of workers' exposure to chemicals that can cause illness.
Kogevinas M, et al., Exposure to substances in the workplace and new-onset asthma: An international prospective population-based study (ECRHS-II), The Lancet, July 28, 2007.