Ontario Lung Association: Know the Symptoms of Work-related Asthma

Work-related asthma is the most common lung disease on the job, according to the Ontario Lung Association. It's also estimated that about 10 to 15 percent of new cases of asthma in Canadian adults can be blamed on something in their workplace.

"There's a common misconception about who's at risk. Many people think that occupations like miners and chemical workers are at high risk. But in fact, hairdressers, dental hygienists, industrial bakers and even teachers are at risk, too," said Dr. Susan Tarlo, a respirologist at the University of Toronto and a spokesperson for the Ontario Lung Association for World Asthma Day (May 5).

Any worker is at risk, but some jobs put workers at higher risk, such as construction, farming, painting, cleaning, baking, animal handling and chemical work, according to the Ontario Lung Association. Other at-risk occupations include nursing, welding, food processing, dentistry, timber and forestry industries, and industries that produce metals, plastics, electronics, rubber and textiles. More than 300 substances have been identified as causing occupational asthma, including cleaning products, wood dust, isocyanates (the raw materials used in polyurethane products), food and animal protein, formaldehyde, latex and baking flour and solder flux.

Symptoms of Asthma:

  • Coughing and wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Trouble sleeping because of breathing difficulty
  • Not able to take part in physical activities

The Ontario Lung Association advises employees to know the risks, protect themselves and see their healthcare provider if they recognize these symptoms while at work.

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