Occupational or work-related asthma is the most common form of occupational lung disease. An estimated 15 percent to 23 percent of new adult asthma cases in the United States are due to occupational exposures. These exposures in the workplace also can worsen pre-existing asthma.4 Symptoms usually occur while the worker is exposed at work but, in some cases, they develop several hours after the person leaves work and then subside before the worker returns to the job. In later stages of the disease, symptoms may occur away from work after exposure to common lung irritants such as air pollution or dust.
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Occupational asthma is usually reversible, but permanent lung damage can occur if exposure continues. According to one study, men working in forestry and with metals and women in the service industries (waitresses, cleaners and dental workers) have the highest risk for occupational asthma.
Page last updated: April 9, 2020