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Up to 21 percent of asthma-related deaths may be from on-the-job exposures: CDC report

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Atlanta — Occupational exposures may have contributed to 11 percent to 21 percent of all asthma-related deaths among 15- to 64-year-olds between 1999 and 2016, according to a recently released report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CDC researchers analyzed multiple cause-of-death data from the National Vital Statistics System and reviewed information from the International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision; the 2000 U.S. Census; and occupation and industry information from 26 states for the years 1999, 2003, 2004, and 2007 to 2012.

The researchers found that:

  • 14,296 men and 19,011 women died from asthma.
  • The industries with the most asthma-related deaths were construction for men and health care for women.
  • The industries with the highest rate of asthma deaths for men were food and beverage and tobacco products manufacturing. For women, they were social assistance and community and social services.
  • Regardless of occupation, the highest risk groups were people ages 55 to 64, females, non-Hispanic or Latino people, and African-Americans.

Cleaners, disinfectants, antibiotics and natural rubber latex, which can cause asthma, are prevalent in health care, while welding fumes and isocyanates – found in paints – pose asthma risks among construction workers, the report states.

Because mortality rates differ by industry and occupation, the researchers point out the need for better understanding and identifying workplace exposures specific to those industries and occupations. Early diagnosis, treatment and management of asthma cases in industries and occupations with higher mortality is especially crucial.

“Pharmaceutical treatment of asthma related to occupational exposures is similar to that for asthma that is not work-related,” the report states. “Early identification and elimination of exposures is the preferred means of primary prevention to reduce asthma related to occupational exposures. However, reduction of exposure might be considered when elimination of exposures is not possible.”

The report was published Jan. 19 in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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