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Occupational exposure to chemicals drives the increased risk of asthma and rhinitis observed for exposure to vapours, gas, dust and fumes: a cross-sectional population-based study


Objectives Occupational exposure to the composite measure vapours, gases, dusts and fumes (VGDF), contribute to the burden of asthma and rhinitis. The objective was to evaluate occupational exposure to VGDF, which is further divided into the components chemicals, organic and inorganic dust in relation to asthma and rhinitis.

Methods Previously examined participants from three population-based cohorts in the Obstructive Lung disease In Northern Sweden (OLIN) studies were re-examined during 2002–2004. In total, 4036 participated in a structured interview and answered a questionnaire on occupational exposures.

Results Occupational exposure to VGDF increased the risk of asthma, and concomitant asthma and rhinitis. Exposure to chemicals, but not dust, showed a similar pattern. Exposure to chemicals increased the risks (OR, 95% CI) of rhinitis without asthma (1.29, 1.10 to 1.52), asthma without rhinitis (1.42, 1.15 to 1.77) and concomitant asthma and rhinitis (1.60, 1.31 to 1.96) when adjusted for confounders such as age, smoking habits, body mass index and sex. The association between exposure to chemicals and asthma and rhinitis remained independent of exposure to dust and was also so when excluding exposure to isocyanates and welding fumes. The results were similar for women and men, as well as for never-smokers and participants without a history of allergy.

Conclusions In this cross-sectional population-based study, occupational exposure to chemicals contributed substantially to the increased risk of asthma and rhinitis observed for occupational exposure to VGDF.

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