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Long-Term Effects
         of Occupational and Workplace Asthma

Workplace Asthma Has Long-Term Effects
Reuters Health    May 18, 1998
referencing the
Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
article (1998;40:481-491)

NEW YORK (Reuters) -- Occupational asthma -- asthma triggered by exposure to allergens or toxins at work -- is a common condition with high long-term financial and quality-of-life costs, according to a study.

Experts estimate that occupational asthma accounts for 15% to 20% of all adult onset asthma in the US. Affected workers may still have symptoms for 1 to 2 years after they stop being exposed to the triggering agent. More than 250 substances have been linked to asthma, including solvents, welding fumes, and plastic resins.

Dr. Thomas H. Gassert from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts, and colleagues interviewed 55 occupational asthma patients an average of 31 months after their removal from the workplace to assess their asthma severity and employment outcomes.

"At follow-up, 54 subjects (98%) had active asthma, of which 26 cases (47%) were 'severe,'" the investigators write in the May issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. "Thirty-eight subjects (69%) were unemployed, risk being greater for those with 'severe' asthma and for those without a college degree....

Women, industrial workers, and those with severe asthma or lack of a college degree appear to be at risk for worse outcomes."

"Occupational asthma is a common preventable disease that is often diagnosed late and leads to prolonged disabling asthma and a high rate of unemployment," write Gassert's team.

And the disorder is "probably irreversible for most patients... despite prolonged removal from causative agents," they conclude.

The prevalence of asthma is "...unfortunate because occupational asthma is a preventable disease that often becomes chronic and may disable millions of people worldwide at considerable personal and social cost," the investigators write.

They call for greater prevention efforts and quicker diagnosis and treatment by healthcare professionals.

SOURCE: Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (1998;40:481-491)

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.

     *For more information on workplace hazards and occupational asthma, see
       the American Lung Association site on Occupational Asthma.

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