Occupational exposure is a known risk for chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD). The contribution of employment in industries to COPD was established for the U.S. population using the third National Health Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) data. Race/ethnic- and sex-specific weighted prevalence, prevalence odds ratios and attributable fractions were estimated using 9,823 subjects age 30-75. Office workers served as a reference. In never smokers, odds ratios adjusted for age, body mass index, education, and socio-economic status were increased for these industries: rubber, plastics, and leather manufacturing (OR-3.5, 95% CI 1.02-12); the military (OR=4.0, 95% CI 1.5-10.4); and transportation equipment manufacturing (OR=3.5, 95% CI 1.1-9). In addition, African-Americans had increased odds ratio among utilities (OR=4.8, 95% CI 1.4-16), repair services and gas station (OR=3.4, 95% CI 1.2-10), transportation and trucking (OR=2.2, 95% CI 1.1-4), food manufacturing (OR=2.8, 95% CI 1.1-71), office building services (OR=4.5, 95% CI 1.3-16), and agriculture (OR-2.1, 95% CI 1.0-4) workers. Mexican-Americans had increased odds ratio among textile mill (OR=8.1, 95% CI 1.4-47); agriculture (OR=3.5, 95% CI 1.7-7), construction (OR=4.0, CI 1.0-16), personal services (OR=4.6, 95% CI 2.0-10), and health care workers (OR=3.2, 95% CI 1.1-10). The fraction of airflow obstruction attributable to industry was estimated as 13% among Caucasians, 31% among African-Americans, 56% among Mexican-Americans, and 22 % among nonsmoker.