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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and U.S. Workers: Prevalence, Trends, and Attributable Cases Associated With Work

      Introduction

      Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. Workplace exposures are important modifiable contributors to the burden of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Among U.S. workers, 19% of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease cases are attributable to workplace exposures. This study examines the trends in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease prevalence during 2012–2018 among workers and assesses the population attributable fraction for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease associated with work by smoking status, industry, and occupation.

      Methods

      The 2012–2018 National Health Interview Survey data for workers aged ≥18 years employed during the 12 months before the interview were analyzed in 2019. Annual trends were examined using the Poisson regression model. Multivariate logistic regression was used to calculate adjusted prevalence ORs.

      Results

      During 2012–2018, an estimated age-adjusted annual average of 4.1% of workers had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and prevalence varied by industry and occupation. Overall, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease prevalence increased by an estimated annual average of 1.5% (p<0.05). The prevalence trends increased significantly among workers in the merchant wholesale nondurable and the arts, entertainment, and recreation industries and among financial specialists; supervisors, other food services workers; supervisors, building grounds workers, and maintenance workers; personal care and services workers; supervisors and office and administrative support workers; and motor-vehicle operators and material moving workers. The proportion of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease cases attributable to work was 27.3% among all workers and 24.0% among never smokers.

      Conclusions

      Public health efforts to increase the awareness and understanding of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease associated with occupational risk factors are needed to prevent chronic obstructive pulmonary disease among workers, especially among those employed in industries and occupations with increasing prevalence trends.
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