Occupational exposures associated with work-related asthma and work-related wheezing among U.S. workers

Am J Ind Med. 2003 Oct;44(4):368-76. doi: 10.1002/ajim.10291.


Background: National estimates of occupational asthma (OA) in the United States are sparse.

Methods: Using data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) 1988-1994, we analyzed associations between occupation and work-related asthma and work-related wheezing among U.S. workers.

Results: This study identified several occupations that were at risk of developing work-related asthma and/or wheezing, with cleaners and equipment cleaners showing the highest risks. Other major occupations identified were farm and agriculture; entertainment; protective services; construction; mechanics and repairers; textile; fabricators and assemblers; other transportation and material moving occupations; freight, stock, and material movers; and motor vehicle operators. The population attributable risks for work-related asthma and work-related wheezing were 26% and 27%, respectively.

Conclusions: This study adds evidence to the literature that identifies work-related asthma as an important public health problem. Several occupations are targeted for additional evaluation and study. Of particular interest are cleaners, which are being increasingly reported as a risk group for asthma. Future intervention strategies need to be developed for effective control and prevention of asthma in the workplace.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Censuses
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Occupations / classification*
  • Occupations / statistics & numerical data*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Prevalence
  • Respiratory Sounds*
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology