According to a recent study by the Respiratory Health Division of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), asthma prevalence is higher among health care workers than any other major industry group. Researchers referenced 2011 to 2016 data from the National Health Interview survey, which included respondents who were both suffering from asthma at the time of the survey and employed during the previous year. They found that out of 21.3 million health care and social assistance workers, 1.9 million have asthma.
Among workers in all major industry groups with current asthma, 44.7 percent, or roughly 4.9 million, had at least one asthma attack and 9.9 percent, or about 1.1 million, had been to the emergency room at least once due to their asthma in the previous year. Researchers suggest that the increased prevalence of current asthma, asthma attacks, and asthma-related emergency room visits in certain industries and occupations may indicate increased risks associated with workplace exposures.
Industry Sectors Prone to Workplace Asthma
Analyzed according to detailed industry sector, workers in electronics and appliance stores had the highest current asthma prevalence. Workers in ambulatory health care services had the highest number of asthma attacks and asthma-related emergency room visits. The study’s authors report that new-onset work-related asthma is associated with exposure to cleaning and disinfecting products, powdered latex gloves, and aerosolized medications.
Workers in the wood, plastic, and rubber product manufacturing industries are also at an increased risk for work-related asthma. Among those with current asthma, workers in these industries had the highest asthma attack prevalence, which suggests they are also at an elevated risk for work-related exacerbation of asthma. Researchers report that approximately 51 percent of adult asthma may be caused or made worse by work. Therefore, up to 5.6 million workers may have work-related asthma issues that could have been prevented.
Contributors to Workplace Asthma
According to the study, workplace conditions that contribute to the development of asthma or exacerbation of preexisting asthma include chemicals, dust, secondhand tobacco smoke, allergens and sensitizers, emotional stress, worksite temperature, and physical exertion. The authors recommend that employers obtain Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety data sheets to identify potential asthma-inducing or exacerbating agents.
OSHA also suggests that the best way to prevent work-related asthma is exposure control to eliminate hazardous products in the workplace and provide workers with respiratory protection. However, if that fails, it may be necessary to remove the worker from the toxic environment. The study’s authors hope the findings will assist both physicians in identifying which workers should be evaluated for possible work-related asthma and public health officials in identifying which workplaces may need to be investigated for prevention and control of this and other occupational illnesses.
Columbia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. Help Those with Work-Related Illnesses Obtain Benefits
If you developed a work-related illness or your existing condition was exacerbated by your work conditions, contact the Columbia Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A.. We understand the nuances of South Carolina Workers’ Compensation law and are skilled at helping our clients obtain the maximum benefits to which they are entitled. For a free consultation, contact us online or call us at 803-929-3600.
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