A case-control study of airways obstruction among construction workers

Background: While smoking is the major cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), occupational exposures to vapors, gases, dusts, and fumes (VGDF) increase COPD risk. This case-control study estimated the risk of COPD attributable to occupational exposures among construction workers.
Methods: The study population included 834 cases and 1243 controls participating in a national medical screening program for older construction workers between 1997 and 2013. Qualitative exposure indices were developed based on lifetime work and exposure histories.
Results: Approximately 18% (95%CI = 2–24%) of COPD risk can be attributed to construction-related exposures, which are additive to the risk contributed by smoking. A measure of all VGDF exposures combined was a strong predictor of COPD risk.
Conclusions: Construction workers are at increased risk of COPD as a result of broad and complex effects of many exposures acting independently or interactively. Control methods should be implemented to prevent worker exposures, and smoking cessation should be promoted.

Source: John Dement, Laura Welch, Knut Ringen, Patricia Quinn, Anna Chen and Scott Haas. American Journal of Industrial Médicine, Volume 58, Issue 10, pages 1083-1097, October 2015.

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