Objective: As a past recipient of the Jean Spencer Felton Award for Excellence in Scientific Writing from the Western Occupational and Environmental Medicine Association, it is truly an honor to contribute to this festschrift. What stands out in my mind about Dr Felton is that he loved to delve into the history of occupational medicine and tried to apply the lessons of that history to the modern practice of the discipline. He once wrote that "The name Ramazzini marks the beginning of society's concern with the well-being and physical and emotional health of its workers from the shops of the crafts to the offices of the executives." This review of a common disease for which an occupational contribution is too frequently ignored is offered in the spirit of both the father of modern occupational medicine and one of his 20th-century acolytes.
Conclusions: The biological plausibility of the capacity of occupational exposures to irritating dusts, gases, and fumes to cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is high. Epidemiological evidence from both worker cohort and community studies supports an increased risk of COPD associated with such exposures. The occupational contribution to the burden of COPD is sufficiently great that preventive interventions are warranted.