Workplace exposures contribute to lung disease in more than one in ten patients

10 June, 2019

More than one in ten people with non-cancerous lung diseases may be sick due to inhaling various particles, gases, fumes or smoke in the workplace, according to a joint European Respiratory Society and American Thoracic Society statement published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

An international group of respiratory experts with both clinical and research skills collaborated on the comprehensive literature review, which aimed to assess the evidence that looks at the link between occupational exposures and lung disease.

The review analysed research covering a range of respiratory conditions, including asthma and COPD, scarring fibrosis and other selected infections. Based on the analyses, the group estimated the occupational burden of the following lung diseases:

  • Asthma, 16%
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, 14%
  • Chronic bronchitis, 13%
  • Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, 26%
  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis, 19%
  • Sarcoidosis and other granulomatous disease, 30%
  • Pulmonary alveolar proteinosis, 29%
  • Community-acquired pneumonia (in working-age adults), 10%
  • Tuberculosis (in silica dust-exposed workers), 2%

The authors say the burden caused by breathing in harmful substances in the workplace has important clinical, research, and policy implications. They conclude that there is an urgent need to improve clinical recognition and public health awareness of the contribution of occupational exposures across a range of non-malignant respiratory diseases.

Learn more about occupational risk factors