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Occupational asthma
  1. M Abramson1,
  2. M R Sim2
  1. 1Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
  2. 2Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health, Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
  1. Correspondence to:
    Professor M J Abramson
    Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Central and Eastern Clinical School, The Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria 3004, Australia; Michael.Abramson{at}

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Early cessation of exposure is important

Occupational asthma is the commonest form of occupational lung disease in many Western countries,1–4 having overtaken the pneumoconioses in these countries owing to improved control of exposure to silica, asbestos, and coal dust. The reported incidence ranges from 13 per million workers in South Africa5 to 174 per million workers in Finland.6 It has been estimated that occupational factors may be responsible for 15% of all cases of adult onset asthma.7 The financial costs of occupational asthma in the US alone were estimated at between $1.1 and $2.1 billion in 1996.8

Although occupational causes are relatively uncommon, they are important because, unlike most other forms of asthma, occupational asthma is eminently preventable. However, one of the challenges in prevention is the fact that there are several hundred known causes arising from many occupations in most major industries.3,4 This is one of the reasons why prevention strategies are often unsuccessful.9 To be successful, clinicians and occupational health practitioners need to be actively involved with the primary, secondary and tertiary prevention of …

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  • Competing interests: none declared.