The Ohio State University College of Public Heath recently released a study that found an increased risk for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) related to working in very cold or hot temperatures, performing physically demanding activities, working outdoors, and working with exposure to contaminants. The study used a new way to look at the relationship between job exposures and the long-term risk of contracting asthma and/or COPD.
“It is difficult to study how decades of demanding work can affect the likelihood for people to contract chronic respiratory diseases later in life,” said Dr. Allard Dembe, the study’s principal investigator. “Our new method allows us to predict the long-term dangers faced by workers who have worked for many years in hazardous conditions.”
The new process utilizes 32 years (1978 through 2009) of occupational history data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1979, along with quantified estimates of environmental exposures in specific job categories from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET). Use of O*NET job descriptors helped analyze the risk of occupationally-related respiratory disease in situations where direct exposure measurements could not be gathered.
Prior to this study, the type of information analyzed made it difficult to verify the relationship between exposure to a particular substance in the workplace and asthma. The combined effect of exposure to multiple hazards in a work environment made it even more challenging to establish the relationship.