Occupational exposure to dusts, gases, and fumes and incidence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in the Swiss Cohort Study on Air Pollution and Lung and Heart Diseases in Adults

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2012 Jun 15;185(12):1292-300. doi: 10.1164/rccm.201110-1917OC. Epub 2012 Apr 6.


Rationale: There is limited evidence from population-based studies demonstrating incidence of spirometric-defined chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in association with occupational exposures.

Objectives: We evaluated the association between occupational exposures and incidence of COPD in the Swiss Cohort Study on Air Pollution and Lung and Heart Diseases in Adults (SAPALDIA).

Measurements and main results: Prebronchodilator ratio of forced expiratory volume in 1 second over forced vital capacity (FEV(1)/FVC) was measured in 4,267 nonasthmatic SAPALDIA participants ages 18-62 at baseline in 1991 and at follow-up in 2001-2003. COPD was defined by the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) criterion (FEV(1)/FVC < 0.70) and Quanjer reference equation (FEV(1)/FVC < lower limit of normal [LLN]), and categorized by severity (≥ 80% and <80% predicted FEV(1) for stage I and stage II+, respectively). Using a job-exposure matrix, self-reported occupations at baseline were assigned exposures to biological dusts, mineral dusts, gases/fumes, and vapors, gases, dusts, or fumes (VGDF) (high, low, or unexposed as reference). Adjusted incident rate ratios (IRRs) of stage I and stage II+ COPD were estimated in mixed Poisson regression models. Statistically significant (P < 0.05) IRRs of stage II+ GOLD and LLN-COPD, indicating risks between two- and fivefold, were observed for all occupational exposures at high levels. Occupational exposure-associated risk of stage II+ COPD was observed mainly in males and ages ≥ 40 years, and remained elevated when restricted to nonsmokers.

Conclusions: In a Swiss working adult population, occupational exposures to biological dusts, mineral dusts, gases/fumes, and VGDF were associated with incidence of COPD of at least moderate severity.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Causality
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dust
  • Environmental Monitoring* / methods
  • Epidemiological Monitoring
  • Female
  • Gases / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology
  • Occupational Diseases / physiopathology
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects
  • Occupational Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Poisson Distribution
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / chemically induced*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / epidemiology*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Distribution
  • Spirometry
  • Switzerland / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Dust
  • Gases