BACKGROUND: Occupational factors have been estimated to contribute to approximately 10% of adult-onset asthma and occupational asthma (OA) is one of the most common occupational lung diseases in industrialized areas. Persistent asthma frequently occurs with significant socio-economic impacts.
METHODS: A literature search was performed using PubMed. The key term searched was occupational asthma combined with prevention.
RESULTS: Primary prevention has been effective for OA related to natural rubber latex, and may have reduced the incidence of diisocyanate-induced asthma. Medical health surveillance has been effective in settings such as the detergent enzyme industry, workers exposed to complex platinum salts and likely for diisocyanate workers in Ontario. Tertiary prevention is still required for workers with OA and can improve prognosis.
CONCLUSIONS: OA is potentially preventable. Sufficient studies have demonstrated the rationale and benefit of primary preventive strategies. Medical health surveillance programs combined with occupational hygiene measures and worker education have been associated with improved outcomes but further studies are needed to understand the optimum frequency and measures for such programs and to identify the separate contribution of the components. Until primary and secondary prevention is better understood and implemented, there will also remain a need for tertiary preventive measures.