Much research has been published on the association of new-onset asthma diagnosis and occupation. Not surprisingly, the association is significant and has implicated both sensitizing and non-sensitizing agents.
Recently, Henneberger et al. (Eur Respir J 2010, 36:743-750) asked another related question: Is severe asthma exacerbation in current asthma patients associated with occupation? Using the European Community Respiratory Health Survey results, they compiled a cohort of workers with current asthma that reported severe exacerbation in a 12 month period. The authors focused on asthma worsening as related to jobs with high risk of exposure to irritants. They found that the relative risk was significant for occupations with high exposure to dust, gas, and fumes and used that to calculate the population-attributable risk percentage. Approximately 15% of severe asthma exacerbations were associated with occupation. Further, the authors found that both sensitizing and non-sensitizing occupational exposures were implicated, which, they pointed out, was consistent with published reports for occupational, new-onset asthma.
Wrapping up, the authors commented that the size of their cohort provided more robust statistical indices and their focus on current asthma exacerbation delineated more clearly the distinction between occupational asthma and work-exacerbated asthma.
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