Occupation and COPD: a brief review

J Asthma. 2012 Feb;49(1):2-4. doi: 10.3109/02770903.2011.611957. Epub 2011 Sep 7.


Background and aims: This review summarizes the scientific literature relevant to occupational risk factors for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Material and methods: This review emphasizes recent work in the field, while placing this in the context of two previous systematic reviews of the subject.

Results: Both the earlier summaries of the literature estimated that the population attributable risk percent (PAR%) of COPD linked to occupational exposures is approximately 15%. More recent studies also strongly support the association between workplace exposures and COPD. Among never smokers, the PAR% for work-related factors may approach 40%. Emerging data also indicate that occupational exposures, at a minimum, are additive to smoking-associated risk of COPD.

Conclusions: The PAR% for work-related COPD is at least 15%. Scientific significance. The consistency, strength, and plausibility of these data support a causal relationship between occupational exposures and COPD.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Occupations
  • Prognosis
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / epidemiology
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / etiology*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Risk Assessment
  • Survival Analysis