asthma is now recognized as the most prevalent occupational lung disease.
It is a frequently serious, and sometimes fatal, condition characterized
by intermittent breathing difficulty, including chest tightness, wheezing,
cough, and shortness of breath. Workers at risk are those who are exposed
to at least one of the more than 300 chemical and biological agents known to be associated with the development of work-related asthma.
New Jersey’s work-related asthma surveillance project, funded
by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH),
has been in place since 1988. Health care providers are the primary source
of work-related asthma reports, but hospital discharge data have also
proven to be a useful source. Physicians in New Jersey have been
required to report suspected cases of work-related asthma since 1990,
in accordance with N.J.A.C. 8:58-1.5, 1.6, 1.7. Reported
cases of work-related asthma are followed up by interviewing the reported
case, obtaining and reviewing medical records, and investigating the
place of employment. Workplace consultations are conducted where warranted;
either by sending a letter with a tailored packet of educational materials
or by performing an on-site industrial hygiene evaluation.
Surveillance of work-related asthma has also led to hazard surveillance
research projects in which a particular agent and/or industry is targeted
for study. The NJDOH has conducted studies of glutaraldehyde exposure
in health care workers and formaldehyde exposure in embalmers.
For more information and resources on work-related asthma, please
Work-Related Asthma Web