Workers, take heed: Your place of work can help bring on or exacerbate asthma, a new study suggests.
“All patients with asthma should have work-related causes considered at the point of diagnosis,” study leader Dr. Christopher Huntley says.
Adjustments, such as reducing or removing exposure to the trigger, can ensure workers will continue employment, he notes.
“If there is an occupational cause to the asthma, removal from this exposure will help to improve the patient’s symptoms and likely help maintain their employment in the long term,” Huntley shares.
For the study, his team at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust in the United Kingdom studied cases of 47 office workers with occupational asthma.
Their findings were presented at an online meeting of the European Respiratory Society. Findings presented at meetings are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
What causes occupational asthma?
The small study identified three key causes of occupational asthma. First, triggers found inside the office, such as mold, printer toner, floor tile adhesive and cleaning products. Second, triggers from the ventilation system, including mold in air conditioning and ventilation shafts installed incorrectly. And third, triggers from the surrounding environment, including nearby workshops, paint and vehicle fumes.
If employers didn’t make adjustments to support workers with occupational asthma, employees were 100 times more likely to quit, the study found.
According to Dr. Meredith McCormack, a medical spokeswoman for the American Lung Association, “Work-exacerbated asthma is common and should be