COPD Linked to Workplace Exposures

According to the CDC’s Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report (MMWR), among an estimated 106 million workers who had never smoked, 2.2% (2.4 million) have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – and workplace exposures likely contribute to much of their disease.

COPD is a debilitating respiratory condition with high mortality and morbidity. However, an estimated 24% of adults with COPD have never smoked.

Among these persons, 26%–53% of COPD can be attributed to workplace exposures, including dust, fumes, gases, vapors, and secondhand smoke exposure.

The highest COPD prevalences among persons who never smoked were in the information (3.3 percent) and mining (3.1 percent) industries and office and administrative support occupation workers (3.3 percent).

Women had higher COPD prevalences than men.

The paper notes that national surveys have shown exposure to vapors, gas, dust, fumes, grain dust, organic dust, inorganic dust, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, diesel exhaust, environmental tobacco smoke, and chemicals increases the risk for COPD morbidity and mortality among persons who have never smoked.

In this study, office and administrative support workers (including secretaries, administrative and dental assistants, and clerks), protective service workers, and information industry workers (including publishing, telecommunications, broadcasting, and data processing workers) had the highest COPD prevalences.