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Researchers identify on-the-job asthma triggers in office workers

Photo: AnnaStills/iStockphoto

Barcelona, Spain — Exposure to printer toner, cleaning products and mold circulated in air conditioning systems – along with poor ventilation – can trigger asthma in office workers, results of a recent study out of England suggest.

Researchers at the Birmingham (UK) Regional Occupational Lung Disease Service at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust studied 47 cases of workers with occupational asthma. Among the cases, 22 were triggered by an internal office environment (floor adhesive, mold, toner or cleaning agent), 11 were linked to an office ventilation system (mold from an air conditioning unit or incorrect installation of ventilation shafts) and nine were tied to external environments adjacent to an office (workshop, paint, vehicle fumes).

The researchers also looked at whether employers made adjustments to support their office workers with occupational asthma and what workers did as a result. Their findings show that when the employer failed to act, workers were 100 times more likely to quit their job.


“We discovered some key causes to be aware of in an office environment, but there will certainly be others,” Christopher Huntley, a physician at the service, said in a European Respiratory Society press release. “If a worker develops occupational asthma, workplace adjustments can and should be made to improve asthma symptoms and help retain staff.”

The study was presented in September during the ERS International Congress in Barcelona.

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