Study reports on asthmagens in the workplace

Recent research shows 47% of male and 40% of female workers were exposed to one or more asthmagens in their workplace.

The Extended Australian Work Exposure Study (AWES–2) examined the types of work and workers most likely to be exposed to asthmagens (substances that cause asthma) in their workplace. The study also found that workers could be exposed to more than one asthmagen depending on the types of tasks undertaken at work.

“Farmers and animal workers are most likely to be exposed to asthmagens,” said Safe Work Australia Director of Research and Evaluation Dr Fleur de Crespigny.

“Men in the study who worked with metal or wood and in food preparation also had a high exposure probability, while women were more likely to be exposed to asthmagens if they worked as carers, cleaners, in food preparation or as nurses.”

“It’s important to note that while most workers will not develop asthma as a result of work-related exposures, those exposed to asthmagens are at greater risk,” said Dr de Crespigny. “It is also possible that the rate of new cases of occupational asthma and work-aggravated asthma could be reduced if the information from this research is used to focus preventative efforts. Medical practitioners may find this information useful in identifying likely work-related factors when diagnosing and treating patients.”

Initial findings from the research have been reported in the journal BMC Pulmonary Medicine.

A summary of the research is available on the Safe Work Australia website – www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au