Could your workplace be making you sick? Work-related asthma is one of the most frequently reported occupational lung diseases.1 If you have asthma, exposures in your workplace could be causing your asthma symptoms. For some people, exposure to certain chemicals, irritants or allergens can cause asthma to develop for the very first time.

Asthma at Work Facts

  • 1 in 12 adults has asthma.
  • Around 11 million workers are exposed to at least one known asthmagen—a substance that causes asthma symptoms—in their workplace.
  • 1 in 6 adult-onset asthma cases is caused by occupational exposures.
  • 21.5 percent of working adults with asthma find that their asthma is made worse from exposures at work.

Whether you work indoors or outdoors, your work environment can expose you to irritants and allergens that may be different from those you encounter at home. Industrial or wood dusts, chemical fumes, solvents, pests, molds, secondhand smoke, vehicle exhaust, ozone and particulate matter air pollution are just a few common exposures at work.

Improving Air Quality at Work: Four Smart Steps

  1. Learn the signs of unhealthy air. Find out how management and employees can ensure everyone breathes healthy air on the job.
  2. Eliminate sources of unhealthy air. Find out how building owners, managers and employees can work together to improve indoor air quality in the workplace.
  3. Protect the air at work. Find out what workers and employers can do to prevent dirty air from polluting the workplace and endangering their health.
  4. Learn how the federal, state and local governments work to protect healthy air. Find out about safety measures and regulations that protect your lungs and the air you breathe at work.

Do you have asthma? Do you think your workplace is making you sick? Follow the steps in the Guide to Controlling Asthma at Work to learn how you can keep your asthma under control.

  1. Goe SK, Henneberger PK, Reilly MJ, Rosenman KD, Schill DP, Valiante D, Flattery J, Harrison R, Reinisch F, Tumpowsky C, Filos MS. A Descriptive Study of Work Aggravated Asthma. Occupational Environmental Medicine. 2004; 61: 512-517.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics. National Health Interview Survey, 2016. Analysis performed by the American Lung Association Epidemiology and Statistics Unit using SPSS software.

  3. Occupational Safety & Health Administration. Occupational Asthma. Retrieved May 1, 2018, from Occupational Safety & Health Administration: [link]

  4. Toren K, Blanc PD. Asthma Caused by Occupational Exposures is Common -- A Systematic Analysis of Estimates of the Population-Attributable Fraction. BMC Pulm Med. 2009; 9:7-7.

  5. Tarlo SM and Malo JL. An Official ATS Proceedings: Asthma in the Workplace. Proceedings of the American Thoracic Society, 2009; 6:339-49.

  6. Henneberger, P. K., Redlich, C. A., Harber, P., Lemiere, C., Martin, J., Tarlo , S. M., et al. An Official American Thoracic Society Statement: Work-Exacerbated Asthma. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 2011; 184:368-78.

Page last updated: September 7, 2022

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