Work-Related Asthma

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Data, Statistics, and Reports

This Web page contains work-related asthma (WRA) statistics from two sources: 1) the NJ Adult Asthma Call-Back Survey (ACBS) and 2) the NJDOH WRA Surveillance and Intervention Project.


  • Results from the 2008-2010 NJ Asthma Call-Back Survey indicated that over 54,000 adult NJ residents reported being diagnosed by a health professional as having work-related asthma. Of these adults, 35,000 stated that they had to change or quit their job due to work-related asthma.

  • Yet, NJDOH WRA Surveillance and Intervention Project has confirmed only 659 cases of work-related asthma since 1993, indicating that WRA may be greatly underreported. NJ law (N.J.A.C. 8:58) requires health care providers and hospitals to report WRA to the NJDOH for public health follow-up.

  • 55% of the confirmed WRA cases are younger than 50 years old.

  • 55% of the confirmed WRA cases were diagnosed with new-onset asthma, that is, asthma in previously healthy individuals.

  • Most frequently reported asthma-causing agents are unspecified chemicals.

  • The largest percentage of confirmed WRA cases in NJ is found in the Health Services industry group.

NJ Adult Asthma Call-Back Survey (ACBS)

The NJ ACBS provides estimates on how much work-related asthma (WRA) is in the general population of adults with asthma in the state. Combined data from the 2008-2010 NJ ACBS (see tables and graphs below) show that 54,382 adult NJ residents with a lifetime asthma history have been diagnosed with WRA by a health professional, and 35,366 have changed or quit a job due to WRA.

The ACBS is a comprehensive asthma-related extension of the New Jersey Behavioral Risk Factor SurveyThe New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) monitors asthma prevalence using the New Jersey Behavioral Risk Factor Survey (NJBRFS), an ongoing population based telephone survey of non-institutionalized adult residents aged 18 years and older. The NJBRFS represents a geographical subset of the national Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). The BRFSS was established in 1984 and is currently implemented across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam where it is being used to monitor and improve the health of residents. (NJBRFS). It is designed to collect detailed information about people living with asthma. Respondents who report a lifetime asthma history on the NJBRFS are called back in approximately two weeks, following the initial survey, to complete the ACBS. In 2008, New Jersey joined 35 other states in administering the ACBS.

TABLES AND GRAPHS: New Jersey ACBS Results: 2008-2010

NJDOH Work-Related Asthma (WRA) Surveillance and Intervention Project

In contrast to the estimates derived from the New Jersey ACBS, the NJDOH WRA Surveillance and Intervention Project identified and confirmed only 659 cases of WRA between the years 1993 through 2011 (see tables and graphs below). The large discrepancy between the number of identified cases and ACBS estimates is attributable to underrecognition and/or underreporting of the disease. Many employers and health care providers are not aware that exposures to certain substances might have adverse health effects on workers, especially those who are hypersensitive, even at levels well below legal (OSHA) exposure limits.

TABLES AND GRAPHS: Confirmed WRA Cases: 1993-2011

WRA Publications in the Scientific Literature (co-authored by staff of the NJDOH Occupational Health Surveillance Unit)

Quinn MM, Henneberger PK, Members of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) Cleaning and Disinfecting in Healthcare Working Group: Braun B, Delclos GL, Fagan K, Huang V, Knaack JLS, Lee SJ, Moual NL, Maher KAE, McCrone SH, Mitchell AH, Pechter E, Rosenman K, Sehulster L, Stephens AC, Wilburn S, Zock JP. Cleaning and disinfecting environmental surfaces in health care: Toward an integrated framework for infection and occupational illness prevention. Am J Infect Control. 2015 Mar 16. Am J Infect Control. 2015 May;43(5):424-434.

Rosenman KD, Millerick-May M, Reilly MJ, Flattery J, Weinberg J, Harrison R, Lumia M, Stephens AC, Borjan M. Swimming facilities and work-related asthma. J Asthma. 2014 Aug 26:1-7.

White GE, Seaman C, Filios MS, Mazurek JM, Flattery J, Harrison RJ, Reilly MJ, Rosenman KD, Lumia ME, Stephens AC, Pechter E, Fitzsimmons K, Davis LK. Gender differences in work-related asthma: surveillance data from California, Massachusetts, Michigan, and New Jersey, 1993-2008. J Asthma. 2014 Mar 27.

Mazurek JM, Filios M, Willis R, Rosenman KD, Reilly MJ, McGreevy K, Schill DP, Valiante D, Pechter E, Davis L, Flattery J, Harrison R. Work-Related Asthma in the Educational Services Industry: California, Massachusetts, Michigan, and New Jersey, 1993–2000. Am J Ind Med. 2008 Jan;51(1):47-59.

Pechter E, Davis L, Tumpowsky C, Flattery J, Harrison R, Reinisch F, Reilly MJ, Rosenman KD, Schill DP, Valiante DJ, Filios M. Work-related asthma among health care workers: Surveillance data from California, Massachusetts, Michigan, and New Jersey, 1993-1997. Am J Ind Med 2005;47:265-275.

Goe SK, Henneberger PK, Reilly MJ, Rosenman KD, Schill DP, Valiante D, Flattery J, Harrison R, Davis L, Tumpowsky C, Filios MS. A descriptive study of work-aggravated asthma. Occup Env Med 2004;61:512-517.

Rosenman KD, Reilly MJ, Schill D, Valiante D, Flattery J, Harrison R, Pechter E, Davis L, Tumpowsky L, Filios M. Cleaning agents and work-related asthma. J Occup Environ Med 2003;45:556-563.

Henneberger PK, Derk S, Davis L, Tumpowsky C, Reilly, MJ, Rosenman KD, Schill DP, Valiante D, Flattery J, Harrison R, Reinisch F, Filios MS. Work-related reactive airways dysfunction syndrome cases from surveillance in selected US states. J Occup Environ Med 2003;45:360-368.

Ortega HG, Kreiss K, Schill DP, Weissman DN. Fatal asthma from powdering shark cartilage and review of fatal asthma literature. Am J Ind Med 2002;42(1)50-4.

Jajosky RA, Harrison R, Reinisch F, Flattery J, Chan J, Tumpowski C, Davis L, Reilly MJ, Rosenman KD, Kalinowsky D, Stanbury M, Schill D, Wood J. Surveillance of work-related asthma in selected U.S. states using surveillance guidelines for State health departments - California, Massachusetts, Michigan, and New Jersey, 1993-1995. MMWR 1999;48/No. SS-3; 1-20.

Stanbury MJ, Gatti E, Sokolowski JW. RADS in a nurse exposed to pentamidine. (Letter) J Occup Environ Med 1996; 38:330-331.

Reilly MJ, Rosenman KD, Watt F, Schill D, Stanbury MJ, Trimbath LS, Jajosky RA, Musgrave K, Castellan R, Bang KM, Ordin D. Surveillance for occupational asthma. Michigan and New Jersey, 1988-1992. MMWR 1994;43/No SS-1: 9-17.

Henneberger P, Kipen H, Stanbury MJ, Trimbath L. Use of portable peak flow meters in the surveillance of occupational asthma. Chest 1991;100:1515-1521.

Matte TD, Hoffman RE, Rosenman KD, Stanbury MJ. Surveillance of occupational asthma under the SENSOR model. Chest 1990;98:173S-175S.

Hoffman RE, Rosenman KD, Watt F, Stanbury MJ. NIOSH. Occupational disease surveillance: Occupational asthma. MMWR 1990;39:119-123.