Work-related Asthma

Epidemiology

Work-related asthma is the most prevalent occupational lung disease and is likely underrecognized in the clinical setting. Thus, a thorough occupational history is critical for identifying patients.

  • Approximately 17% of all adult-onset asthma cases are related to occupational exposures.
  • Median prevalence of work-exacerbated asthma among adults with asthma is 22%, but some studies have suggested up to 58%.
  • Patients with work-related asthma are more likely to experience asthma attacks, emergency room visits, and worsening of their asthma symptoms compared with other adult asthma patients.
  • Women and men with asthma are equally likely to have work-related asthma.
  • Workers who are black, American Indian/Alaska Native, of multiple races, or of Puerto Rican ethnicity have a higher prevalence of work-related asthma.

1. White et al. Gender differences in work-related asthma: surveillance data from California, Massachusetts, Michigan, and New
Jersey, 1993-2008. J Asthma. 2014 Sep; 51(7): 691–702.
2. White GE, Mazurek JM, Storey E. Employed adults asthma who have frequent workplace exposures. J Asthma. 2015 Feb;52(1):46-
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3. Toren K, Blanc PD. Asthma caused by occupational exposures is common – A systematic analysis of estimates of the
population-attributable fraction. BMC Pulm Med. 2009; 9: 7.
4. Friedman-Jimenez G, Harrison D, Luo H. Occupational asthma and work-exacerbated asthma. Semin Respir Crit Care Med. 2015
Jun;36(3):388-407.
5. Lemière et al. Work-exacerbated asthma and occupational asthma: Do they differ? J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2013 Mar;131(3):704-
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6. Breton CV, Zhang Z, Hunt PR, Pechter E, Davis L. Characteristics of work-related asthma: Results from a population based survey.
Occup Environ Med. 2006 Jun; 63(6): 411–415.

Page last reviewed: May 24, 2017