More than 1 in 10 people with lung diseases could be sick due to occupational hazards

Washington: More than one in ten people with a range of non-cancerous lung diseases may be sick due to breathing in vapors, gas, dust or fumes, at a workplace, reported a study.

The study published in the journal ‘ American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine’ analyzed scores of studies of the connections between occupational hazards and lung disease. The studies were conducted around the world over more than two decades.

The authors included a range of respiratory conditions, ranging from asthma and COPD to scarring fibrosis and selected infections.

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“The role of occupational factors in most lung disease is under-recognized,” said Paul D. Blanc, chief of the Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the University of California San Francisco.

“Failure to appreciate the importance of work-related factors in such conditions impedes diagnosis, treatment and, most importantly of all, prevention of further disease,” added Blanc.

The authors estimated the occupational burden of these lung diseases: Asthma, 16 per cent, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) 14 per cent, chronic bronchitis 13 per cent, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis 26 per cent, hypersensitivity pneumonitis19 per cent, sarcoidosis and other granulomatous disease 30 per cent, pulmonary alveolar proteinosis 29 per cent, community-acquired pneumonia (in working-age adults) 10 per cent, and tuberculosis (in silica dust-exposed workers), 2 per cent.

Blanc said that some of these findings, particularly those for asthma and COPD, reinforce earlier burden estimates.

Other estimates, such as those for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and community-acquired pneumonia in working-age adults, highlight “a newly appreciated magnitude of risk.”

Authors did not study cancer of the lung and pleura. Similarly, they did not include in their burden estimate asbestosis, silicosis and coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (black lung), because those conditions are entirely work-related.


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