Background: The exacerbation of asthma by workplace conditions is common, but little is known about which agents pose a risk.
Objective: We used data from an existing survey of adults with asthma to identify occupational exposures associated with severe exacerbation of asthma.
Design: Questionnaires were completed by 557 working adults with asthma. Severe exacerbation of asthma in the past 12 months was defined as asthma-related hospitalization, or reports of both unplanned asthma care and treatment with a short course of oral corticosteroids. Occupational exposures for the same time period were assessed using an asthma-specific job exposure matrix. We modeled severe exacerbation to yield prevalence ratios (PRs) for exposures while controlling for potential confounders.
Results: A total of 164 participants (29%) were positive for severe exacerbation, and 227 (40.8%) were assessed as being exposed to asthma agents at work. Elevated PRs were observed for several specific agents, notably the irritant subcategories of environmental tobacco smoke (PR 1.84, 95%CI 1.34-2.51) among all participants, inorganic dusts (PR 2.53, 95%CI 1.37-4.67) among men, and the low molecular weight subcategory of other highly reactive agents (PR 1.97, 95%CI 1.08-3.60) among women.
Conclusion: Among working adults with asthma, severe exacerbation was associated with several occupational agents.