21% of COPD cases in a study with more than 3,300 participants were associated with occupational exposures. The results have been published in Thorax and conducted by An international team led by researchers from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), a centre supported by the "la Caixa" Foundation.
The research was carried out within the European Community Respiratory Health Survey (ECRHS), a longitudinal multicentre study. A total of 3,343 participants from 24 centres in 12 countries were selected between 1991 and 1993 and followed-up 20 years later. Spirometric lung function tests were performed after recruitment and at follow-up, while exposures in the workplace were estimated from the information obtained at interviews with participants in combination with an external job exposure matrix. After assessing occupational exposure to 12 different agents, results showed that participants exposed to biological dust had a 60% higher risk of COPD compared with those unexposed. Participants exposed to gases and fumes had a 50% higher risk of COPD, while in the case of those exposed to pesticides the risk was a 120% higher. However, the effect observed with pesticides was based on a small number of cases. Overall, results showed that 21% of the in total 96 cases of COPD detected at follow-up were associated with these occupational exposures.