High COPD risk occupations identified in large study

27 June, 2019

Researchers have identified the occupations that are linked to the most significant chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) risk and say that jobs in the manufacturing and agriculture sectors, as well as industrial technician roles across a variety of occupations, are highly represented.

The study, published today (27 June, 2019) via early-view in the European Respiratory Journal, aimed to identify COPD-risk occupations to help focus preventive strategies.

The research team investigated the COPD risk of a total of 94,551 individuals who are enrolled in the UK’s Biobank cohort using job-histories information and lung function data.

COPD was assessed using spirometry measurements, including forced expiratory volume in 1s (FEV1) and forced vital capacity (FVC).

Based on the strong associations observed between working in certain jobs and the increased risk of developing COPD due to lowered lung function, the researchers say that the most at-risk occupations include:

  • Sculptor, painter, engraver, art restorer
  • Gardener, groundskeeper, park-keeper
  • Food, drink and tobacco processor
  • Plastics processor, moulder
  • Agriculture and fishing occupations
  • Warehouse stock handler, stacker

The associations between employment in these roles and heightened COPD risk were confirmed among never-smokers and never-asthmatics to remove confounders.

COPD prevalence was also assessed by comparing participants who worked in manual roles with lifetime office workers. This analysis was confirmed using robust Poisson regression that adjusted for participants’ age, sex and smoking status and lifetime smoking history.

The researchers say that COPD patients, especially never-smokers, should be asked about their job-history to improve disease management and that focussed preventive strategies in high risk COPD occupations are warranted.

Learn more about occupational risk factors