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Exacerbation of Asthma Research

NIOSH Leads Research on Workplace Exacerbation of Asthma

A 2003 statement of the American Thoracic Society (ATS) included the observation that asthma exacerbated by conditions at work was likely to be responsible for as much illness and loss of productivity as asthma caused by work. However, workplace exacerbation of asthma (WEA) had received little attention from clinicians, researchers, and public health officials. More research on the frequency and causes of WEA was needed to guide preventive actions. Dr. Paul Henneberger and others in the Respiratory Disease Research Program (RDRP) at NIOSH recognized this need several years ago and took action. Initially, they conducted descriptive studies of WEA by collaborating with research institutions in Maine and Colorado, and by summarizing data collected by NIOSH-supported SENSOR surveillance programs in California, Massachusetts, Michigan, and New Jersey. Then, they successfully competed for National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) funds that supported a 5-year study of WEA. This NORA research project also benefited from additional financial support from the National Center for Environmental Health. As of December 2010, the RDRP has produced more publications on WEA than any other research center in the world, with 9 articles in peer-reviewed journals, two book chapters, and an online educational unit (see below). The findings from several of these articles indicate that WEA is common, occurring in approximately one-fourth of working adults with asthma. Also, WEA cases experience many of the same adverse health consequences as individuals with asthma caused by work, and have a lower quality of life than adults who have asthma that is not related to work. Additional research and communication efforts are needed to prevent WEA. Dr. Paul Henneberger chairs the ATS Work-Exacerbated Asthma Committee that is developing an official ATS statement on this topic.

NIOSH Publications on Workplace Exacerbation of Asthma

Articles in Peer-reviewed Journals

Book Chapter

  • Wagner GR, Henneberger PK. Asthma Exacerbated at Work. In: Bernstein DI, Chan-Yeung M, Malo J-L, Bernstein IL, editors. Asthma in the Workplace and Related Conditions, 3rd Edition. New York:Taylor and Francis, 2006, pp 631-640.
  • Henneberger PK, Redlich CA. Work-exacerbated asthma. In: Sigsgaard T, Heederik D, editors. Occupational Asthma. Basel, Switzerland: Birkhäuser, 2010, pp 89-100.

Educational Unit

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  • Page last reviewed: March 5, 2014
  • Page last updated: December 20, 2010 The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
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