From Office Workers to Factory Employees, Indoor Air Contaminates Can Sicken Every Facet of the American Workforce

American Lung Association Releases New Guide to Safe and Healthy Workplaces to Reduce the Incidence of Asthma Attacks during the Workday

Washington, D.C. (May 30, 2013)

The vast majority of the American workforce spends at least part of their day laboring indoors where serious health dangers may be lurking in the air they breathe. According to the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA), approximately 11 million workers including those who are employed by offices, restaurants and industrial facilities are exposed to at last one or more substances in their workplace that could cause asthma symptoms.

Available for the first time today is the American Lung Association’s Guide to Safe and Healthy Workplaces located online at: www.lung.org/workplacewellness. The guide was designed as a comprehensive resource for both human resources managers and their employees seeking tangible advice on how to drastically improve work environments to reduce the burden of lung disease and improve productivity.

According to the latest statistics released by the American Thoracic Society, up to 15 percent of asthma cases in the United States may be job related.

“Contrary to popular opinion, asthma is not solely a pediatric disease that one can always expect to grow out of,” advised Harold P. Wimmer, American Lung Association National President and CEO. “Roughly 1 in 12 adults, or close to 19 million adults, have asthma that could potentially be worsened by their work environment.”

Work-exacerbated asthma occurs in more than 20 percent of adults with asthma, although many workers and their employers are not aware of common workplace exposures that can be the cause of asthma symptoms, sickening employees and contributing to high levels of absenteeism.

“Helping both employers and employees understand what factors in their environment can be minimized to reduce asthma attacks and missed workdays due to breathing problems are what makes this guide such an essential resource for every work environment,” explained Wimmer. “More than just an informational guidebook, we have created an interactive toolkit that includes sample policies and prevention program guides that business owners can readily implement for little to no expense.”

The toolkit outlines how to provide: comprehensive health benefits to employees; a healthy work environment; asthma education to employees and family members; smoking cessation support to employees and their families; and preventative workplace wellness initiatives ranging from fitness and nutrition programs to influenza vaccinations clinics.

The annual direct health care costs associated with the treatment of asthma are approximately $50.1 billion. Indirect costs factoring in lost productivity add another $5.9 billion to that figure. As employers are typically considered to be the primary purchasers of health care insurance in the United States, uncontrolled asthma in the workplace can lead to increased premiums and is also responsible for 14.2 million missed workdays every year.

“If fully implemented, this toolkit can help business owners save money and increase their workforce’s productivity,” noted Wimmer. “Lung Association staff are also available to provide one-on-one support to business owners seeking assistance and advice on how to most effectively integrate these important public health policies into their work environment.”

 

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About the American Lung Association
Now in its second century, the American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. With your generous support, the American Lung Association is “Fighting for Air” through research, education and advocacy. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide Seal, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) or visit www.lung.org.