CPWR/Duke Study Assesses COPD Causes Among Older Construction Workers

"Many workers participating in the program have experienced work-related exposures that can increase the risk of COPD," said Duke University's John Dement, who headed the study.

A recent study found that 18 percent of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) cases among construction workers are caused by on-the-job exposure to vapors, gases, dusts, and fumes such as asbestos, silica dusts, and welding fumes, Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) and Duke University researchers concluded. Smoking is the major cause of COPD, but occupational exposures increase the risk, they found.

The study population included 834 cases and 1,243 controls who participated in a national medical screening program for older construction workers between 1997 and 2013.

The researchers compared work history, smoking habits, and medical screening results of the workers with and without COPD enrolled in CPWR's Building Trades National Medical Screening Program (BTMed). "Many workers participating in the program have experienced work-related exposures that can increase the risk of COPD," said Duke University's John Dement, who headed the study.

Among the study participants who reported never having smoked, almost one-third of their COPD cases were caused by VGDFs, a higher percentage than expected.

To read the full research paper, go to http://www.silica-safe.org/pdf/Dement_et_al-2015-AJIM-COPD-in-Construction-Workers.pdf.

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