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Occup Environ Med 59:505-511 doi:10.1136/oem.59.8.505
  • Original article

Prevalence and risk factors of work related asthma by industry among United States workers: data from the third national health and nutrition examination survey (1988–94)

  1. A A Arif,
  2. L W Whitehead,
  3. G L Delclos,
  4. S R Tortolero,
  5. E S Lee
  1. University of Texas-Houston Health Science Center, School of Public Health, Houston, TX-77030, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr G L Delclos, University of Texas-Houston, School of Public Health, 1200 Herman Pressler Street, Suite RAS W1018, Houston, TX-77030, USA;
 gdelclos{at}sph.uth.tmc.edu
  • Accepted 17 October 2001

Abstract

Objectives: To estimate the prevalence of work related asthma and work related wheezing in United States workers. To identify high risk industries that could be targeted for future intervention. To determine the population attributable risk of work related asthma and work related wheezing.

Methods: The third national health and nutrition examination survey, 1988–1994 (NHANES III) was analyzed to determine the prevalence of work related asthma and wheezing and to identify initially defined industries at risk among United States workers aged 20 and older. Separate logistic models were developed with work related asthma and work related wheezing as outcomes. Work related asthma was defined as affirmative response to questions on self reported physician diagnosed asthma and work related symptoms of rhinitis, conjunctivitis, and asthma. Work related wheezing was defined as affirmative response to questions on self reported wheezing or whistling in the chest in the previous 12 months and work related symptoms of rhinitis, conjunctivitis, and asthma. All analyses were adjusted for age, sex, smoking, and atopy.

Results: The prevalence of work related asthma was 3.70% (95% confidence interval (95% CI) 2.88 to 4.52) and the prevalence of work related wheezing was 11.46% (95% CI 9.87 to 13.05). The main industries identified at risk of work related asthma and wheeze included the entertainment industry; agriculture, forestry, and fishing; construction; electrical machinery; repair services; and lodging places. The population attributable risk for work related asthma was 36.5% and work related wheezing was 28.5%.

Conclusions: The findings provide impetus for further research and actions by public health professionals which prioritise occupational asthma on the public health agenda. Future intervention strategies need to be developed for effective control and prevention of asthma in the workplace.

Footnotes