How can we improve awareness about air pollution and occupational lung disease?

30 June, 2016

Experts have gathered in Brussels this week to take part in two workshops aiming to improve the communication of air pollution risk and education around occupational lung diseases.

Air pollution has major adverse effects on health. Although information is available, there is a lack of behaviour-change advice. Patients and the public remain confused about how they can avoid the harm caused by air pollution and clinicians do not routinely discuss this with their patients. For example, what is the risk for an asthmatic on a high pollution day – and how should it be presented? The workshops aims to develop evidence-based advice for patients, and the public, alongside recommendations for policymakers responsible for pollution control.

Professor Bert Brunekreef, Chair of the ERS Health and Environment Committee, commented: “This two-day event provided an essential platform to deliver much-needed information on air pollution risks. Although it is widely understood that air pollution is harmful, we do not have consistent, readily-available advice to help patients change their behaviour and to facilitate sustainable legislation from policymakers. The outcomes of this workshop will provide invaluable information and resources to remedy this problem.”

Current and future challenges exist in the field of occupational lung disease: the structure of industries, the workforce demography and diminishing role of governmental organisations will all have an impact on occupational respiratory disease.

The workshop aims to provide an overview of the progress in the field of occupational respiratory diseases and prevention over the years, knowledge about the current and future needs in the field of occupational respiratory diseases and recommendations to employers, employees and policy-makers in the field of occupational respiratory diseases.

Sara De Matteis, Member of the ERS Environment and Health Committee, said: “As the occupational landscape is changing, it is vital that we assess the impact this is having on occupational respiratory diseases. There is an increasing emphasis and on employer and employee responsibility and we need to ensure that these groups of people have accurate information to make the best decisions for the benefit of an individual’s health. The workshop aims to ultimately pave the way for new tools and materials to facilitate better lung health education in the workplace.”

The recommendations and materials produced at both workshops will be used for the ERS/ELF Healthy Lungs for Life (HLFL) campaign this year in London and also across the globe when people carry out their own HLFL events.

HLFL was set up by ERS and ELF in 2014 as one of the largest ever lung health campaigns aiming to raise awareness of the importance of healthy lungs and how to protect them to healthcare professionals, scientists, primary care, patients, policy makers and the public. In 2016, the campaign will focus on the importance of clean air for lung health.