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Keywords:

  • asthma;
  • job termination;
  • rhinitis;
  • wheeze;
  • work disability;
  • work exposure

Abstract

Background

Respiratory tract-related occupational disability is common among adults of working age. We examined occupational vapors, gas, dust, or fume (VGDF) exposure as a predictor of disability, based on respiratory sickness absence among the actively employed, at an early point at which prevention may be most relevant.

Methods

Currently employed European Community Respiratory Health Survey II participants (n = 6,988) were classified into three mutually exclusive, condition/symptom-based categories: physician-diagnosed asthma, self-reported rhinitis, and wheeze/breathlessness (n = 4,772). Logistic regression analysis estimated the odds of respiratory sickness absence (past 12 months) by VGDF exposure.

Results

In the condition/symptom groups, 327 (6.9%) reported respiratory sickness absence. Exposure to VGDF was associated with increased odds of respiratory sickness absence: asthma odds ratio [OR] 2.0 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.1–3.6), wheeze/breathlessness OR 2.2 (95% CI 1.01–4.8); rhinitis OR 1.9 (95% CI 1.02–3.4).

Conclusion

One in 15 currently employed with asthma, breathlessness, or rhinitis reported respiratory sickness absence. VGDF exposure doubled the odds of respiratory sickness absence, suggesting a focus for disability prevention. Am. J. Ind. Med. 56:541–549, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.