The scope of this review is to highlight important and interesting articles in the field of the epidemiology of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and occupational exposure. Relevant information from the literature published within the past year, either on general population samples or on workplaces, indicates that a substantial proportion of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases are work related. Methods of investigation include self-reported or interview-obtained questionnaires, job title and job exposure matrix, as well as voluntary or mandatory notifications. Furthermore, data on lung function and immunological tests are available. Specific settings and agents are quoted that have been indicated or confirmed as being linked to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In conclusion, occupational exposure to dusts, chemicals and gases will be considered an established, or supported by good evidence, risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The implications of this substantial occupational contribution to asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease must be considered in research planning, in public policy decision-making, and in clinical practice.