Occupational and Environmental Risk Factors for Asthma in Rural Communities in China

Int J Occup Environ Health. 1996 Jul;2(3):172-176. doi: 10.1179/oeh.1996.2.3.172.


Respiratory allergens such as dust, gases/fumes, and hay smoke, which are frequently present in agricultural settings, can cause or aggravate asthma. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationships between occupational and environmental exposures and asthma in Chinese rural communities. The study population consisted of 28,946 people 15 years old or older, living in rural areas of Anhui province, China. A modified Mandarin translation of the ATS-DLD questionnaire was administered by trained interviewers to request information about exposures to specific occupational/environmental agents and respiratory disorders. In Huaining, the prevalence of wheezing was 3.8% for men; 2.1% for women; the prevalence of asthma was 1.6% for men; 1.8% for women. In Zongyang, the prevalence of wheezing was 2.7% for men; 1.9% for women; the prevalence of asthma was 1.7% for men; 1.2% for women. With control for potential confounders such as gender, age, residential area, education level, and smoking status, the pooled adjusted odds ratios (ORs) of wheezing and asthma for the group exposed to wood/hay smoke were 1.36 (95% CI: 1.14-1.61) and 1.27 (95% CI: 1.02-1.58), respectively. For coal-stove users, the pooled adjusted ORs were 1.47 (95% CI: 1.09-1.98) for wheezing and 1.51 (95% CI: 1.05-2.17) for asthma. After stratification of the subjects by dust type, the estimated ORs for wheezing were 1.58 (95% CI: 1.02-2.44) among the group exposed to inorganic dust and 3.03 (95% CI: 1.25-7.33) among the group exposed to metal dust. Asthma was not shown to be significantly associated with any specific dust type. Findings of the present study are consistent with previously reported adverse respiratory health effects related to occupational/environmental exposures to wood/hay smoke and dust, and indicate the need for further occupational disease surveillance in rural communities.