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WMJ. 2010 Jun;109(3):130-5.

Occupational respiratory health: a survey of Wisconsin workers who wear respirators.

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  • 1Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Division of Public Health, Bureau of Environmental and Occupational Health, Madison 53701-2659, USA.



Little is known about Wisconsin workers who wear respirators and the prevalence of work-related asthma (WRA) in that population. To understand this problem, we questioned workers who wear respirators.


The primary objective was to learn more about the health experiences of workers who wear respirators. A secondary objective was to evaluate the utility of the survey in WRA surveillance.


A survey was mailed to an opportunistic sample of workers who received medical evaluation for respirator fit testing.


Surveys were sent to 1356 workers medically evaluated to wear a respirator; 192 surveys were completed and returned.


The majority of respondents were men who have been medically evaluated for respirator wear an average of 3 times during their career. Every time, most respirator medical evaluations used 3 evaluation tools: questionnaire, physical exam and breathing test. Thirty-two percent of survey respondents had some asthma symptoms while at work in the last 30 days, and half reported discussing these symptoms with a physician. Lifetime prevalence of asthma as determined by this survey was 18%. Lifetime prevalence for WRA amongthis population was 3% (18% among those with asthma).


This survey was an efficient and effective way to learn more about workers' respirator experiences and to determine the prevalence of asthma in this population. Few differences existed between those with asthma and those without. However, some differences were noted between those with asthma and those with WRA. Data also suggest that the respirator medical evaluation process provides an opportunity for health practitioners to discuss asthma and asthma prevention with workers.

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