Occupations and exposure events in acute and subacute irritant-induced asthma


Background: Exposures leading to irritant-induced asthma (IIA) are poorly documented. Methods: We retrospectively screened the medical records of patients with IIA diagnosed in an occupational medicine clinic during 2000-2018. We classified the cases into acute (onset after single exposure) and subacute (onset after multiple exposures) IIA. We analysed in detail, occupations, causative agents and their air levels in the workplace, exposure events and the root causes of high exposure.

Results: Altogether 69 patients were diagnosed with IIA, 30 with acute and 39 with subacute IIA. The most common occupational groups were industrial operators (n=23, 33%), metal and machinery workers (n=16, 11%) and construction workers (n=12, 8%). Among industrial operators significantly more cases had subacute IIA than acute IIA (p=0.002). Forty cases (57%) were attributable to some type of corrosive acidic or alkaline chemical. Acute IIA followed accidents at work in different types of occupation, while subacute IIA was typical among industrial operators performing their normal work tasks under poor work hygiene conditions. The most common root cause was lack of information or false guidance in acute IIA (n=11, 36%) and neglect of workplace hygiene measures in subacute IIA (n=29, 74%). Conclusions: Accidents are the main causes of acute IIA, whereas subacute IIA can develop in normal work in risk trades with poor work hygiene. Airborne strong acids or bases seem to be the most important causative agents of acute and subacute IIA. The different risk profiles of acute and subacute IIA should be considered in the prevention and identification of the cases.

Authors: Irmeli Lindström, Jussi Lantto, Kirsi Karvala, Satu Soini, Katriina Ylinen, Hille Suojalehto, Katri Suuronen
; Full Source: Occupational and environmental medicine 2021 Mar 31;oemed-2020-107323. doi: 10.1136/oemed-2020-107323.