Characteristics and Prevalence of Domestic and Occupational Inhalational Exposures Across Interstitial Lung Diseases

Chest. 2021 Jul;160(1):209-218. doi: 10.1016/j.chest.2021.02.026. Epub 2021 Feb 20.


Background: Inhalational exposures are increasingly recognized as contributing factors in interstitial lung disease (ILD). However, the characteristics of both exposures and exposed patients are not well understood. We hypothesized that domestic and occupational inhalational exposures would be common and associated with differences in demographics, clinical characteristics, and transplant-free survival in patients with all forms of ILD.

Research question: What is the prevalence of inhalational exposures across all ILD diagnoses, and are these exposures associated with differences in demographics, clinical characteristics, and transplant-free survival?

Study design and methods: Patients from a tertiary ILD clinic underwent an interview designed to capture inhalational exposures including occupational, home, hobbies, and tobacco. Demographic and survival data were collected from the electronic medical record. Survival analysis was performed using Cox regression to compare exposed vs unexposed patients and adjusted for gender-age-physiology score and smoking.

Results: One hundred and fifty-six patients seen between May and October 2018 were analyzed. Patients had a wide variety of multidisciplinary diagnoses, with a minority of patients with hypersensitivity pneumonitis (14%). One hundred and one patients (65%) had potentially relevant inhalational exposures. More men than women had a history of any exposure (82% vs 51%; P < .001), occupational exposure (66% vs 14%, P < .001), and multiple exposures (56% vs 26%, P < .001), respectively. White race was associated with bird and hobby exposure. Patients with any exposure had worse transplant-free survival (unadjusted hazard ratio, 2.58; 95% CI, 1.13-5.92; P = .025), but this was not statistically significant after adjustment (hazard ratio, 1.82; 95% CI, 0.77-4.27; P = .17).

Interpretation: A standardized interview revealed most patients across all types of ILD had potentially relevant inhalational exposures. Exposures were markedly different based on demographics and were associated with worse transplant-free survival, but this survival difference was not significant after multivariable adjustment. Identification and avoidance of exposures represent actionable targets in ILD management.

Keywords: environmental health; interstitial lung disease; lung diseases; occupational disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inhalation Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / diagnosis
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / epidemiology
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / etiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Occupational Health*
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • United States / epidemiology