Work-related peak flow and asthma symptoms in a damp building

Occup Med (Lond). 2013 Jun;63(4):287-90. doi: 10.1093/occmed/kqt028. Epub 2013 Apr 18.


Background: Working in damp conditions is associated with asthma, but few studies have used objective testing to document work-related patterns.

Aims: To describe the relationship of peak flow measurements to work-related asthma (WRA) symptoms and WRA among occupants in a damp office building.

Methods: At the beginning of the study, all workers were offered a questionnaire and methacholine challenge testing. Participants were then instructed to perform serial spirometry using handheld spirometers five times per day over a 3 week period. Peak flow data were analysed using OASYS-2 software. We calculated the area between the curves (ABC score) using hours from waking. We considered a score >5.6 L/min/h to be indicative of a work-related pattern.

Results: All 24 employees participated in the questionnaire. Seven participants (29%) reported physician-diagnosed asthma with onset after starting work in the building. Almost two-thirds (63%) of participants reported at least one lower respiratory symptom (LRS) occurring one or more times per week in the last 4 weeks. Twenty-two (92%) consented to participate in serial spirometry. Fourteen participants had adequate quality of serial spirometry, five of whom had ABC scores >5.6, ranging from 5.9-23.0. Of these five, two had airways responsiveness, three had current post-hire onset physician-diagnosed asthma and four reported work-related LRS.

Conclusions: We found evidence of work-related changes in serial peak flows among some occupants of an office building with a history of dampness. Serial peak flows may be a useful measure to determine WRA in office settings.

Keywords: Asthma; OASYS; dampness; lower respiratory symptoms; serial spirometry..

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asthma, Occupational / diagnosis
  • Asthma, Occupational / etiology
  • Asthma, Occupational / physiopathology*
  • Bronchial Provocation Tests
  • Carbon Dioxide / analysis
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Fungi / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • Humidity
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Peak Expiratory Flow Rate / physiology*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Sick Building Syndrome / microbiology
  • Sick Building Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Workplace / standards*


  • Carbon Dioxide