Objective: To describe the characteristics of subjects with work-related asthma (WRA) secondary to welding exposure.
Methods: As part of statewide surveillance, WRA reports were received from health care professionals. These reports were followed up with a telephonic interview using a standardized questionnaire; lung function tests were reviewed, and final assessment regarding the diagnosis was made.
Results: Welding exposure was the fifth leading cause of WRA (n = 142; age, 43.3 ± 11.4 years; male to female ratio, 94:48). Several workers (n = 72) were nonwelders but all worked around welding fumes. More than a third had predicted forced expiratory volume in one second less than 80% (38 of 106, 35.8%). Most had sought medical treatment (95.8%) and had emergency room visits (n = 86, 60.6%), and several had required hospitalization (n = 50, 36.7%).
Conclusion: Welding exposure is a common cause of WRA. It is seen in workers from different industries engaged in diverse jobs. Spirometry changes are common. Work-related asthma is associated with high morbidity and health care costs.
From the Department of Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich.
Address correspondence to: Kenneth D. Rosenman, MD, Department of Medicine, Michigan State University, 117 West Fee Hall, East Lansing, MI 48824; firstname.lastname@example.org.