Young adults exposed to vapors, gas, dust or fumes on the job may be at risk of developing chronic bronchitis. And those who smoke further increase their risk, according to a report published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
Bronchitis -- or inflammation and congestion of the linings of the airways of the lungs -- often results in weeks of persistent cough for those afflicted.
In the study, an international team of researchers evaluated the lung health and job exposure to various lung irritants in more than 13,000 men and women aged 20 to 44 living in 14 different countries.
Among study participants who did not have asthma, chronic bronchitis was present in 1 percent to 3 percent of those who had never smoked or had quit smoking, while 5 percent to 9 percent of those who smoked had chronic bronchitis.
Agricultural workers had a significantly increased risk of chronic bronchitis, whether or not they smoked, Dr. Jan-Paul Zock of the Insitut Municipal d'Investigacio Medica in Barcelona, Spain and colleagues found.
People working in the textile, wood, food, and paper and chemical processing industries also had an increased risk of bronchitis, especially if they smoked, the findings indicate.
Zock and colleagues found that bronchitis did not affect the study participants' lung function. "This may have been due to the relatively young age and therefore the limited duration of exposure among these individuals," the authors noted. The researchers are following up with the study participants to determine if airflow problems develop as they age, particularly in those with chronic bronchitis.
Chronic bronchitis affects an estimated 5 percent of the population or 14.2 million people in the United States. Cigarette smoking is by far the most common cause of chronic bronchitis, according to the American Lung Association.
Edited by Virginia Sutcliffe