According to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, certain industries and occupations have been linked to elevated asthma mortality rates.

For this study, the CDC analyzed cause-of-death data from 1999 to 2016, with occupation information collected for the years 1999, 2003, 2004, and 2007–2012. Proportionate mortality ratios (PMRs), defined as the observed number of deaths from asthma in a specified industry/occupation, divided by the expected number of deaths from asthma, were calculated for patients with asthma between the ages of 15 and 64.

Results showed that the food, beverage and tobacco manufacturing industry (1.82) had the highest elevated asthma PMRs for males. Among females, the social assistance industry (1.35) and community social services occupations (1.46) had the highest elevated asthma PMRs. 

For males, the highest number of asthma deaths occurred in the construction industry (13.2%) and among construction trade workers (10.7%). Among females, the highest number of asthma deaths were associated with the healthcare industry (14.0%) and office and administrative support occupations (9.3%).

Although the report found an elevated mortality risk for certain occupations, the annual age-adjusted asthma death rate actually declined from 13.59 in 1999 to 9.34 in 2016 (P<0.001) among females and from 9.14 (1999) to 7.78 (2016) (P<0.05) among males. The authors suggest this overall decline may be due to improvements in asthma management and effective prevention efforts. They highlight the adaption of powder-free natural rubber gloves in place of powdered latex gloves, which may have substantially reduced certain work-related asthma among healthcare workers.

The findings of this study emphasize the importance of identification and prevention of workplace exposures. “Early identification and elimination of exposures is the preferred means of primary prevention to reduce asthma related to occupational exposures; however, reduction of exposure might be considered when elimination of exposures is not possible,” the authors write.

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