Workers in the health care and social assistance industry are more likely to have asthma than those in any other segment of the American economy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Current asthma prevalence was 8.8% for adults aged 18 years and older who worked in health care and social assistance in 2011-2016, which put them above those in education services (8.2%); arts, entertainment, and recreation (8.1%); accommodation and food services (7.7%); and finance and insurance (7.5%). The overall rate for all working adults was 6.8%, Jacek M. Mazurek, MD, PhD, and Girija Syamlal, MBBS, reported in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
“New-onset work-related asthma in [health care] workers has been associated with exposure to cleaning and disinfecting products, powdered latex gloves, and aerosolized medications,” they wrote.
Among persons with asthma who were employed in health care and social assistance, 45.8% reported having at least one asthma attack in the previous year. Among the subgroups of the industry, those working in hospitals were highest with a 51.7% rate of past-year asthma attacks, followed by those working in nursing and residential care facilities at 45.2%, those working in ambulatory health care services at 43.2%, and those working in social assistance at 42.9%. The highest asthma attack rates among all industries were 57.3% for wood product manufacturing and 56.7% for plastics and rubber products manufacturing, the investigators said, based on data from the National Health Interview Survey.
Asthma-related visits to the emergency department in the past year were much less common for those in health care – 11.3% overall – and followed a pattern different from asthma attacks. Those working in nursing and residential care facilities were highest at 13.8%, with those in social assistance at 12.3%, those in ambulatory care at 10.5%, and those in hospitals the lowest at 10.1%. The highest ED-visit rate for any industry, 22.9%, was for workers in private households, said Dr. Mazurek and Dr. Syamlal, both of the respiratory health division at the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in Morgantown, W.Va.