Case-by-case assessment of adult-onset asthma attributable to occupational exposures among members of a health maintenance organization

J Occup Environ Med. 2006 Apr;48(4):400-7. doi: 10.1097/


Objective: In a general population of employed persons with health insurance, what proportion of adult-onset asthma is caused by occupational exposures?

Method: We conducted a 2-year prospective study to identify adult-onset asthma among health maintenance organization (HMO) members. Telephone interviews regarding occupational exposures, symptoms, medication use, and triggers were used to assess likelihood of work-related asthma for each case. Weighted estimating equations were used to adjust the proportion of asthma attributable to workplace exposures for factors associated with interview participation.

Results: Overall, 29% (95% confidence interval, 25-34%) of adult-onset asthma was attributable to workplace exposures; 26% (21-30%) and 22% (18-27%) of cases had asthma attributable to occupational irritant and sensitizer exposures, respectively.

Conclusions: Occupational exposures, including irritants, are important causes of adult-onset asthma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Causality
  • Female
  • Health Maintenance Organizations / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Massachusetts / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Statistical
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Prospective Studies
  • Racial Groups / statistics & numerical data
  • Sex Distribution