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Clin Chest Med. 2002 Dec;23(4):727-35, vi.

Occupational airways diseases from chronic low-level exposures to irritants.

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Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, Box 0843, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA.


Short-term, high-level exposures to dusts, gases, mists, fumes, and smoke that are irritating to the respiratory tract are capable of inducing asthma, the so-called reactive airways dysfunction syndrome. Such exposures, however, do not occur frequently; chronic or recurrent exposures to lower levels of irritants are much more common. This article reviews the evidence that supports the concept that low-level exposures to respiratory tract irritants can contribute to the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma.

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