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Changes in rates and severity of compensation claims for asthma due to diisocyanates: a possible effect of medical surveillance measures


Objectives: A medical surveillance programme was introduced into Ontario for workers exposed to diisocyanates in 1983, but no mandated surveillance programme is in effect in this province for other occupational respiratory sensitisers. This study assesses changes in incidence and severity of compensated claims for occupational asthma (OA) due to diisocyanates compared with other causes, which have occurred since the introduction of this surveillance programme.

Methods: New claims for OA compensated by the Ontario Workers' Compensation Board (WCB) between 1980 and 1993 were retrospectively reviewed. Linkage was made between these data and an Ontario Ministry of Health database to assess hospital admissions for asthma from the date of onset of OA until the end of 1996.

Results: Numbers of claims for OA induced by diisocyanates ranged from 9–15/year in 1980–83, increased up to 55–58 claims/year in 1988–90, then fell to 19–20 claims/year by 1992–93. By contrast yearly numbers of claims for OA due to other causes increased up to 1985–87 then remained relatively stable. Duration of symptoms for OA induced by diisocyanates was shorter than for other claims and there were fewer hospital admissions among those with OA induced by diisocyanates than among those with OA induced by other causes. Occupational asthma from all causes was diagnosed earlier in claims for 1987–93 compared with 1980–86, and indicators of severity of asthma were also milder in accepted claims during 1987–93 than in earlier claims.

Conclusions: Although engineering and industrial hygiene measures may have contributed to these changes, our findings are also consistent with a beneficial contribution from the medical surveillance programme for workers exposed to diisocyanates.

  • occupational asthma
  • diisocyanates
  • medical surveillance
  • OA, occupational asthma
  • WCB, Ontario Workers' Compensation Board (formerly, Workplace Safety and Insurance Board)
  • FEV1, forced expiratory volume in 1 second
  • VC, vital capacity
  • FEF50, forced expiratory flow at 50% vital capacity

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