Obstructed Breathing More Common in Certain Jobs

Airway obstruction, which can signify lung diseases such as asthma or chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), was more common among workers in
construction and oil and gas extraction than in other industry, investigators
at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reported
after analyzing results from a nationwide survey. These findings underscore the
importance of monitoring the lung function of workers in high-risk jobs.

A major contributor to disability and death, lung disease is the third-leading
cause of death in the United States. Although lung diseases such as asthma and
COPD have genetic influences, hazardous occupational and environmental
exposures have important causative roles. Consequently, preventing these
exposures can help to prevent disease. Previous research has suggested that
workers in certain jobs with exposure to vapors, gases, dust, and fumes are
more likely than other workers to develop airway obstruction. Non-occupational
exposures such as tobacco smoking, exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke, and
exposure to other forms of air pollution can also increase risk. Research
identifying work-related factors in airway obstruction is vital to better
recognize this risk, enable those who already have the disorder to receive
treatment, and prevent future cases.

To identify jobs and other factors that increase the risk of airway
obstruction, NIOSH investigators analyzed data from the 2007 to 2008 National
Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Their analysis included 4,172
working adults between the ages of 18 and 79 years, who voluntarily provided
results of a test, called spirometry, which measures the ability to blow air
out of the lungs. Nearly half of participants were female, and 47% were white,
20% were black, and 18% were Mexican American.

Investigators found that the highest rates of airway obstruction were in jobs
related to installation, maintenance, and repair; construction; and oil and gas
extraction. More than one-fifth of study participants in these jobs had airway
obstruction. In other findings, cigarette smoking, even prior to the study,
also correlated with a high risk of airway obstruction. Among study
participants who reported ever smoking, 19% had evidence of airway obstruction
on spirometry. The number of participants with airway obstruction also differed
by age, sex, and race, with the highest rates among older workers aged 60-79
years, males, and non-Hispanic whites. Overall, nearly 14% of study
participants had airway obstruction on spirometry. It is important to pinpoint
specific jobs that increase the risk of airway obstruction and to find methods
to reduce this risk, according to the investigators. In addition to further
analyses of new NHANES data, future studies in this area should investigate
specific industries and jobs.


More information - Source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health