Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in nonsmokers by occupation and exposure: a brief review

Curr Opin Pulm Med. 2015 Mar;21(2):149-54. doi: 10.1097/MCP.0000000000000135.


Purpose of review: This review gives an overview on recent reports of various occupations associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and exposures to associate with COPD among nonsmokers.

Recent findings: Recent research has focused on identifying occupations with increased risk of COPD and exposures associated with COPD among nonsmokers based on national health survey data in the United States and studies in other countries. Recently reported prevalence of COPD among nonsmokers was 2.8% in the United States and the prevalence in other countries varied from 2% to 4.2%. The newly identified occupations with high COPD prevalence include machine operators, construction trades, financial record processing, cotton workers, farm machinery workers, construction workers, and bus drivers.

Summary: The results of various studies among nonsmokers show that some occupations are associated with an increased risk of developing COPD, but no exact causes are reported. More research is needed to confirm the newly identified occupations associated with an increased risk of COPD and to identify causal risk factors. To reduce the prevalence of COPD in the workplace, etiologic research and preventive interventions should focus on occupations at risk for occupational exposures.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Occupational Diseases* / etiology
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Prevalence
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive* / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking