Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is caused by exposure to noxious particles and gases. Smoking is the main risk factor, but other factors are also associated with COPD. Occupational exposure to vapours, gases, dusts and fumes contributes to the development and progression of COPD, accounting for a population attributable fraction of 14%. Workplace pollutants, in particular inorganic dust, can initiate airway damage and inflammation, which are the hallmarks of COPD pathogenesis. Occupational COPD is still underdiagnosed, mainly due to the challenges of assessing the occupational component of the disease in clinical settings, especially if other risk factors are present. There is a need for specific education and training for clinicians, and research with a focus on evaluating the role of occupational exposure in causing COPD. Early diagnosis and identification of occupational causes is very important to prevent further decline in lung function and to reduce the health and socio-economic burden of COPD. Establishing details of the occupational history by general practitioners or respiratory physicians could help to define the occupational burden of COPD for individual patients, providing the first useful interventions (smoking cessation, best therapeutic management, etc.). Once patients are diagnosed with occupational COPD, there is a wide international variation in access to specialist occupational medicine and public health services, along with limitations in workplace and income support. Therefore, a strong collaboration between primary care physicians, respiratory physicians and occupational medicine specialists is desirable to help manage COPD patients’ health and social issues.
Authors: Nicola Murgia, Angela Gambelunghe
; Full Source: Respirology (Carlton, Vic.) 2022 May 5. doi: 10.1111/resp.14272.