Respiratory conditions Worker health and wellness Construction Workplace exposures

Smoking not only cause for COPD among construction workers: study

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Silver Spring, MD – Almost one-fifth of progressive lung diseases among construction workers may be attributable to workplace exposures to vapors, gases, dusts and fumes, according to a study from the Center for Construction Research and Training (also known as CPWR) and Duke University.

Researchers analyzed more than 800 construction workers with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease between 1997 and 2013. They found that workplace exposures were responsible for 32 percent of COPD cases among construction workers who had never smoked.

Researchers said the findings highlight the need to protect workers by focusing on all respirable irritants regardless of the source. Smoking cessation programs, although important, should not be the lone strategy for employers to reduce COPD cases among workers, they added.

“A simplistic view of COPD in the workforce might lead employers to begin and end with smoking cessation efforts, but the evidence says otherwise,” CPWR Executive Director Pete Stafford wrote in his organization’s monthly e-newsletter. “In construction, at least, occupational exposures remain a major cause of COPD in their own right, and we need to protect workers by getting VGDF under control.”

The study was published online June 29 in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.