Work-related asthma in health care in Ontario.

Liss GM, Buyantseva L, Luce CE, Ribeiro M, Manno M, Tarlo SM.
Am J Ind Med. 2011 Apr;54(4):278-84. doi: 10.1002/ajim.20935. Epub 2011 Feb 15.

BACKGROUND: The health of workers in health care has been neglected in the past. There are few reports regarding occupational asthma (OA) in this group, and work-exacerbated asthma (WEA) has rarely been considered.

METHODS: We examined the frequency of claims for OA and WEA allowed by the compensation board in Ontario, Canada for which industry was coded as “health care” between 1998 and 2002, to determine the frequency of OA and WEA, causative agents, and occupations.

RESULTS: During this period, five claims were allowed for sensitizer OA, two for natural rubber latex (NRL), and three for glutaraldehyde/photographic chemicals. The two NRL cases occurred in nurses who had worked for >10 years prior to “date of accident.” There were 115 allowed claims for WEA; health care was the most frequent industry for WEA. Compared to the rest of the province, claims in health care made up a significantly greater proportion of WEA claims (17.8%) than OA (5.1%) (odds ratio, 4.1, 95% CI 1.6-11.6; P = 0.002). The rate of WEA claims was 2.1 times greater than that in the rest of the workforce (P < 0.0001). WEA claims occurred in many jobs (e.g., clerk), other than “classic” health care jobs such as nurses, and were attributed to a variety of agents such as construction dust, secondhand smoke, and paint fumes.

CONCLUSIONS: WEA occurs frequently in this industrial sector. Those affected and attributed agents include many not typically expected in health care. The incidence of OA claims in this sector in general was low; the continued low number of OA claims due to NRL is consistent with the successful interventions for prevention.

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