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Association of respiratory symptoms and asthma with occupational exposures: findings from a population-based cross-sectional survey in Telemark, Norway

Journal article
Authors R. Abrahamsen
A. K. M. Fell
M. V. Svendsen
Eva Andersson
Kjell Torén
P. K. Henneberger
J. Kongerud
Published in Bmj Open
Volume 7
ISSN 2044-6055
Publication year 2017
Published at Institute of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, Section of Occupational and environmental medicine
Language en
Keywords adult-onset asthma, general-population, northern europe, west sweden, prevalence, health, questionnaire, disorders, validity, bakers, General & Internal Medicine
Subject categories Environmental Health and Occupational Health, Public health science


Objectives: The aim of this study was to estimate the prevalence of respiratory symptoms and physiciandiagnosed asthma and assess the impact of current occupational exposure. Design: Cross-sectional analyses of the prevalence of self-reported respiratory health and association with current occupational exposure in a random sample of the general population in Telemark County, Norway. Settings: In 2013, a self-administered questionnaire was mailed to a random sample of the general population, aged 16-50, in Telemark, Norway. The overall response rate was 33%, comprising 16 099 responders. Outcome measures: The prevalence for respiratory symptoms and asthma, and OR of respiratory symptoms and asthma for occupational groups and exposures were calculated. Occupational exposures were assessed using self-reported exposure and an asthma-specific job-exposure matrix (JEM). Results: The prevalence of physician-diagnosed asthma was 11.5%. For the occupational groups, the category with agriculture/fishery workers and craft/related trade workers was associated with wheezing and asthma attack in the past 12 months, showing OR 1.3 (1.1 to 1.6) and 1.9 (1.2 to 2.8), respectively. The group including technicians and associated professionals was also associated with wheezing OR 1.2 (1.0 to 1.3) and asthma attack OR 1.4 (1.1 to 1.9). The JEM data show that exposure to flour was associated with wheezing OR 3.2 (1.4 to 7.3) and woken with dyspnoea OR 3.5 (1.3 to 9.5), whereas exposures to diisocyanates, welding/soldering fumes and exposure to vehicle/motor exhaust were associated with dyspnoea OR 2.9 (1.5 to 5.7), 3.2 (1.6 to 6.4) and 1.4 (1.0 to 1.8), respectively. Conclusions: The observed prevalence of physiciandiagnosed asthma was 11.5%. The 'manual' occupations were associated with respiratory symptoms. Occupational exposure to flour, diisocyanates, welding/soldering fumes and vehicle/motor exhaust was associated with respiratory symptoms in the past 12 months and use of asthma medication. However, prospective data are needed to confirm the observed associations.

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