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December/January 2015/2016 (vol. 12/4)

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COPD in construction workers

One-third of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in non-smoker construction workers is attributable to occupational exposures, according to this US case–control study. Data were drawn from a national medical screening programme of building trade workers and included 834 COPD cases and 1,243 controls. Occupational exposure was estimated from participants’ job histories and frequencies of tasks known to generate vapours, gases, dusts and fumes (VGDF). COPD was significantly associated with most VGDF exposures, including silica, cement dust, engine exhausts, welding, metal cutting/grinding, isocyanates, organic solvents and wood dust. The risk odds ratios for combined VGDF exposure ranged from 1.19 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.09–1.30) at low-level exposures, to 2.03 (CI 1.43–2.87) at the highest exposures. The population attributable fraction of COPD due to occupational VGDF exposure was 18% for all building workers (CI 2%–24%) and 32% among those who had never smoked (CI 6%–42%).

American Journal of Industrial Medicine 2015; 58: 1083–1097. doi: 10.1002/ajim.22495.

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Occupational Health at Work December/January 2015/2016 (vol. 12/4) pp36