Lifetime occupational exposures and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease risk in the UK Biobank cohort


Background and aim: Occupational exposures are important, preventable causes of COPD. We previously found an increased risk of COPD among six occupations by analysing lifetime job histories and lung function data in the population-based UK Biobank cohort. We aimed to build on these findings and elucidate the underlying potential causal agents to focus preventive strategies. Methods: We applied the ALOHA+job exposure matrix (JEM) based on the International Standard Classification of Occupations V.1988 codes, where exposure to 12 selected agents was rated as 0 (no exposure), 1 (low) or 2 (high). COPD was spirometrically defined as FEV1/FVC less than the lower limit of normal. We calculated semiquantitative cumulative exposure estimates for each agent by multiplying the duration of exposure and squared intensity. Prevalence ratio (PR) and 95% CI for COPD were estimated using robust Poisson regression adjusted for centre, sex, age, smoking and coexposure to JEM agents. Only associations confirmed among never-smokers and never-asthmatics were considered reliable. Results: Out of 116 375 participants with complete job histories, 94 514 had acceptable/repeatable spirometry and smoking data and were included in the analysis. Pesticide exposure showed increased risk of COPD for ever exposure (PR=1.13, 95% CI 1.01 to 1.28) and high cumulative exposure (PR=1.32, 95% CI 1.12 to 1.56), with positive exposure-response trends (p trend=0.004), which were confirmed among never-smokers (p trend=0.005) and never-asthmatics (p trend=0.001). Conclusion: In a large population-based study, occupational exposure to pesticides was associated with risk of COPD. Focused preventive strategies for workers exposed to pesticides can prevent the associated COPD burden.

Authors: Sara De Matteis, Debbie Jarvis, Lucy Darnton, Dario Consonni, Hans Kromhout, Sally Hutchings, Steven S Sadhra, David Fishwick, Roel Vermeulen, Lesley Rushton, Paul Cullinan
; Full Source: Thorax 2022 Jan 26;thoraxjnl-2020-216523. doi: 10.1136/thoraxjnl-2020-216523.