Study: Artists, Loggers Have Greater Respiratory Risk

On the surface, they don't seem to have much in common, but workers in the creative arts, such as artists and designers, have work-related asthma rates five times higher than average, while loggers show an increased risk of respiratory problems such as wheezing.

Lead author Dr. Ahmed A. Arif, of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock, and his colleagues analyzed data from the third national health and nutrition examination study. They found that workers in the creative fields, such as photography, set design and art, had greatly increased risk of asthma, while loggers showed rates of wheezing four times higher than average.

Researchers speculated that the increased risk of asthma was related to "chemicals used in art media, stage set production, theatrical make-up" and photography. They speculated the increased rate of wheezing among loggers was due to exposure to certain cleaning products.

"This study confirmed associations between certain industries and asthma," says Arif, who published the findings in the August issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Certain industries may account for as many as 37 percent of work-related cases of asthma and wheezing.

They also found that workers in the agricultural, forestry and fishing industries were twice as likely to experience both work-related asthma and wheezing compared to workers in other industries, which they attributed to exposure to fertilizers, insecticides and dust. Electrical machinery, equipment and supply workers were also twice as likely to experience work-related asthma and wheezing.

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