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Occupational diesel exhaust exposure as a risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Hart, Jaime E.a; Eisen, Ellen A.b,c; Laden, Francinea,c,d

Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine: March 2012 - Volume 18 - Issue 2 - p 151–154
doi: 10.1097/MCP.0b013e32834f0eaa

Purpose of review Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a major source of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Although cigarette smoking is the major cause of COPD, occupational exposures have emerged as an important risk factor, especially in nonsmokers. In this review, we assess the state of the literature on the association of COPD with a specific occupational exposure, diesel exhaust.

Recent findings A large body of literature links general occupational exposures to dust and fumes with an increased risk of COPD, particularly in nonsmokers. Few studies, however, have explicitly examined the role of occupational diesel exhaust exposures to COPD risk. Suggestive recent findings link occupational diesel exposures to an increased risk of COPD.

Summary The available literature directly examining the effects of occupational diesel exhaust on risk of COPD is quite small, but does suggest that increasing exposures are associated with increasing risk. Additional research, with more advanced exposure metrics, is needed to fully elucidate this association.

aChanning Laboratory, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts

bEnvironmental Health Sciences and Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, California

cDepartment of Environmental Health

dDepartment of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Correspondence to Jaime E. Hart, Channing Laboratory, 181 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA. Tel: +1 617 525 2289; e-mail:

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.