May 24, 2012 — A massive study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has found that about 9% of all asthma cases are caused by occupational or workplace exposure to toxic substances. In total, 1.4 million people may be injured by workplace asthma every year. Furthermore, the researchers were concerned because many of these on-the-job injuries could be prevented. If an employer fails to protect his or her employees, the employer could be financially liable if an injured employee files a workplace asthma lawsuit.
The result of the CDC study will be published on May 25, in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
The researchers found that age, race, and location were all factors that increased the risk of workplace asthma. Older, black people located in Florida had the highest risk. Nearly 13% of workers between 45-64 years of age had asthma, compared with 7% of workers between the ages of 18-44. Blacks were most likely to have asthma, with 12.5% affected. 10.5% of Hispanics were affected, and 8.2% of whites. The rate of asthma varied by state, with just under 5% affected in Arizona, versus more than 14% in Florida. The researchers collected data from 2006 through 2009.
Although workplace asthma appears to be a widespread problem, the CDC researchers found that it was under-recognized, and many cases could be prevented. They suggested that increased awareness and prevention could potentially decrease rates of workplace asthma. Useful efforts might include identifying risk factors, expanding workplace surveillance, increasing public awareness, and encouraging employers to provide safety equipment.
According to the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), every year an estimated 11 million workers are exposed to substances that are known to cause or exacerbate asthma. As much as 15% of severely disabling cases of asthma are caused by workplace exposures. In response, many states have passed laws that establish safety standard and enforcement policies. Despite this, many employees are still injured by this occupational hazard.
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