Occupational asthma may occur in any workplace. It is, however, much more likely to occur where workers are exposed to fine dusts of an organic nature such as flour, sawdust, grain dust, and proteins from small animals. Many chemicals can also cause asthma. These are found in the making and handling of various plastics and resins and the use of fluxes in soldering and in various smelters. The list is growing each day. Employers should have details of all materials to which workers are exposed. This information comes in Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) which you should ask for and take copies to your doctor if a work-related chemical is suspected. The estimated average annual incidence of OA was 29.4 (95% CI: 27.6-31.3) new cases per million salaried workers during the 1993-2002 period. There was a significant decline in the overall incidence rate of OA throughout the study period from 35.5 new cases per million salaried workers in 1993 to 25.8 in 2002.
Occupational asthma can occur in many types of workplaces, but is most commonly reported where people are working with flour and isocyanates (chemicals which are found in paints as hardening agents). Early diagnosis and management by removing any exposure toirritants in the workplace is the best way to treat occupational asthma and prevent it becoming a permanent condition. Otherwise, treatment with the usual asthma inhalers is usually effective.