Work-related asthma cluster at a syntactic foam manufacturing facility -massachusetts 2008-2013

Work-related asthma is asthma that is caused or exacerbated by exposure to specific substances in the workplace. Approximately 10%-16% of adult-onset asthma cases are attributable to occupational factors, and estimates of asthma exacerbated by work range from 13% to 58%. During 2008-2012, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health received nine reports of work-related asthma among workers at a facility that manufactured syntactic foam used for flotation in the offshore oil and gas industry. These reports and a request from facility employees led to a CDC health hazard evaluation during 2012-2013 in which CDC reviewed records, toured the facility, and administered a questionnaire to current employees. Investigators found that workers’ risk for asthma increased substantially after hire, possibly because of known asthma triggers (i.e., asthmagens) used in production. The company has since initiated efforts to reduce employee exposures to these substances. This cluster of work-related asthma was identified through CDC-funded, state-based surveillance and demonstrates complementary state and federal investigations.

Authors: Casey M, Stanton ML, Cummings KJ, Pechter E, Fitzsimmons K, LeBouf RF, Schuler CR, Kreiss K. ;Full Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2015 Apr 24;64(15):411-4. ;