Do You Have Work-Related Asthma?

An OSHA guide helps define work-related asthma, informs you why you should care and tells you what to do if you have asthma from work.

OSHA is helping workers figure out if they have work-related asthma and what they can do about it. If you have a cough, wheezing, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath or chest tightness, you might have work-related asthma.

What is Work-Related Asthma?

OSHA says that work-related asthma is a lung disease caused or made worse by exposures to substances in the workplace. Common exposure to chemicals, dust, old, animals and plants often cause work-related asthma. Asthma symptoms can start at work or within several hours after leaving work and may occur with no clear pattern.

One of the most common group of chemicals that causes work-related asthma is isocyanates. OSHA is working to reduce exposures to isocyanates and has identified their use innumerous workplaces.

Ask your employer if there is a risk of exposure to isocyanates at your workplace.

Why Should You Care About Work-Related Asthma?

Work-related asthma may result in long-term lung damage, loss of work days, disability or even death. Luckily, an early diagnosis and treatment of work-related asthma can lead to a better health outcome.

What to Do if You Think You Have Work-Related Asthma

If you think you may have work-related asthma, see your doctor as soon as possible and take a copy of OSHA’s pdf with you.

It is important to note that OSHA's pdf is from 2014, however. Since then, OSHA (and other groups) have provided updated information about work-related asthma. Here are a few of the most recent resources for determining if you think you have work-related asthma or are exposed to hazardous materials, like diisocyanates, at work:

Medical Screening and Surveillance for Workers Potentially Exposed to Diisocyanates: A Guide for Workers

  • This guidance document was developed under an OSHA alliance as a resource for workers and specifically addresses potential adverse health effects due to diisocyanate exposure and the role of medical screening and surveillance in preventing these effects. (2019).

Medical Screening and Surveillance for Workers Potentially Exposed to Diisocyanates: A Guide for Employers

  • This guidance document was developed under an OSHA alliance as a resource for the employer and specifically addresses potential adverse health effects due to diisocyanate exposure and the role of medical screening and surveillance in preventing these effects. (2019).

A Guide for the Primary Care Physician in Evaluating Diisocyanate Exposed Workers for Occupational Asthma

  • This document provides clinical guidance for the physician asked to evaluate an individual who may potentially be exposed to diisocyanates at work.

Work-Related Asthma Quick Facts

  • work-related asthma can develop over ANY period of time (days to years)
  • it is possible to develop work-related asthma even if your workplace has protective equipment, such as exhaust ventilation or respirators
  • work-related asthma can continue to cause symptoms even when the exposure

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