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Nearly 2 million health care workers have asthma, NIOSH study shows

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Washington — The health care and social assistance industry has the highest percentage of workers with asthma among major industry groups, according to a recent study from NIOSH’s Respiratory Health Division.

Researchers analyzed 2011 to 2016 data from the National Health Interview Survey of respondents 18 or older who, at the time of the survey, had asthma and had been employed at any time in the previous year. The researchers found that 8.8 percent of the nearly 21.3 million workers in the health care and social assistance industry had asthma, or almost 1.9 million.

Of that 1.9 million, approximately 45.8 percent reported experiencing at least one asthma attack in the previous year, and 11.3 percent had at least one asthma-related emergency room visit.

Among other major industry groups, transportation and warehousing had the highest percentage of workers (51.7 percent of 383,000) experiencing at least one asthma attack in the previous year. The retail trade industry, meanwhile, had the highest percentage of workers (12.4 percent of more than 1.2 million) with at least one asthma-related ER visit over that same span.

“These findings might assist physicians to identify workers who should be evaluated for possible work-related asthma in industries and occupations with a high prevalence of asthma, asthma attacks, and asthma-related [ER] visits and could help public health officials identify workplaces where detailed investigations for prevention and control might be appropriate,” the researchers wrote. “Continued surveillance is important to assess asthma prevalence and trends by respondents’ industry and occupation.”

The study was published online April 6 in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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