Wheezing and coughing on the job from work-related asthma is more common than you might think, according to a new U.S. health report.
Almost 16 percent of American adults with asthma either developed the condition on the job or have asthma symptoms made worse by conditions in their workplace, says Dr. Jacek Mazurek, lead author of a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That adds up to an estimated 1.9 million cases of work-related asthma in the 22 states that were part of the CDC study.
“Work-related asthma is associated with increased disability, mortality, and adverse social and economic outcomes,” says Mazurek, a lead research epidemiologist with the division of respiratory disease studies at the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
Many people who have asthma flare-ups at work experience poor quality of life, loss of income and unemployment, he adds.
Overall, about one in 10 Americans has asthma, researchers found.
Rates of work-related asthma for on-the-job adults range from 23 percent in Missouri and 21 percent in Wisconsin down to 9 percent in Hawaii, according to CDC poll data gathered from 22 states in 2012. Twenty-one of those states had rates higher than 13 percent.
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What are the types of work-related asthma?
Asthma attacks occur when the airways constrict in response to some sort of environmental irritant, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Triggers can include allergens, dust, smoke, fragrances and chemicals.
There are two main types of work-related asthma, says Dr. Susan Tarlo, a respiratory physician and a professor of occupational and environmental health at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.
Asthma that has been caused by work conditions is called occupational asthma, while existing asthma that is triggered by