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Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine:
Original Articles

Long-Term Health and Employment Outcomes of Occupational Asthma and Their Determinants

Gassert, Thomas H. MD, MSc; Hu, Howard MD, ScD, MPH; Kelsey, Karl T. MD, MOH; Christiani, David C. MD, MPH

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Abstract

Occupational asthma is common, yet little is known about long-term outcomes in the United States. A case series of 55 (of 72) occupational asthma patients were interviewed in follow-up 31 (± 15) months after removal from the cause to evaluate asthma severity and employment outcomes. Standard criteria were used to rate severity. At follow-up, 54 subjects (98%) had active asthma, of which 26 cases (47%) were "severe." Multivariate analysis showed increased risk of "severe" asthma for women (odds ratio [OR]= 13.8; 95% confidence interval [95% CI] = 1.3 to 151.7) and industrial sector workers (OR = 11.9; 95% CI = 1.3 to 109.8). Thirty-eight subjects(69%) were unemployed, risk being greater for those with "severe" asthma (OR= 20.9; 95% CI = 1.9 to 229.8) and for those without a college degree(OR = 7.3; 95% CI = 1.2 to 43.4). These results indicate that occupational asthma is disabling and probably irreversible for most patients referred to a specialty clinic, despite prolonged removal from causative agents. Women, industrial workers, and those with severe asthma or lack of a college degree appear to be at risk for worse outcomes. Greater efforts at primary and secondary prevention should lessen the burden of long-term illness and unemployment due to occupational asthma.

© Williams & Wilkins 1998. All Rights Reserved.

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