Background: The aim of this study was to estimate the occupational burden of airflow limitation, chronic airflow limitation, COPD, and emphysema.
Materials and methods: Subjects aged 50-64 years (n=1,050) were investigated with forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1) and forced vital capacity (FVC). Airflow limitation was defined as FEV1/FVC <0.7 before bronchodilation. Chronic airflow limitation was defined after bronchodilation either according to the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) as FEV1/FVC <0.7 or according to the lower limit of normal (LLN) approach as FEV1/FVC < LLN. COPD was defined as chronic airflow limitation (GOLD) in combination with dyspnea, wheezing, or chronic bronchitis. Emphysema was classified according to findings from computed tomography of the lungs. Occupational exposure was defined as self-reported occupational exposure to vapor, gas, dust, or fumes (VGDF). Odds ratios (OR) were calculated in models adjusted for age, gender, and smoking; population-attributable fractions and 95% CI were also calculated.
Results: There were significant associations between occupational exposure to VGDF and COPD (OR 2.7, 95% CI 1.4-51), airflow limitation (OR 1.8, 95% CI 1.3-2.5), and emphysema (OR 1.8, 95% CI 1.1-3.1). The associations between occupational exposure to VGDF and chronic airflow limitation were weaker, and for the OR, the CIs included unity. The population-attributable fraction for occupational exposure to VGDF was 0.37 (95% CI 0.23-0.47) for COPD and 0.23 (95% CI 0.05-0.35) for emphysema.
Conclusion: The occupational burden of COPD and computed tomography-verified emphysema is substantial.
Keywords: computed tomography; epidemiology; obstructive airways disease; occupation; work.