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Eur Respir Rev. 2012 Jun 1;21(124):112-24. doi: 10.1183/09059180.00005111.

Primary prevention: exposure reduction, skin exposure and respiratory protection.

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Division of Environmental Epidemiology, Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences, University of Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Interventions for the primary prevention of occupational asthma have been reported in the medical literature, understanding the effectiveness of these efforts could help future interventions. The aim of our study was to evaluate the existing knowledge regarding the impact of controlling work exposure on the prevention of occupational asthma. We conducted systematic literature searches through April 2010 to examine if control of workplace exposures is effective for primary prevention of sensitisation and occupational asthma. The literature search for primary prevention of occupational asthma yielded 29 studies. Assessment of the available information led to the following conclusions and recommendations concerning primary prevention of occupational asthma. Exposure elimination is the strongest and preferred primary preventive approach to reduce the burden of occupational asthma. If elimination is not possible, exposure reduction is the second best option for primary prevention of occupational asthma. The evidence for the effectiveness of respirators in preventing occupational asthma is limited, and other options higher in the list of controls for occupational exposures, notably eliminating or minimising exposures at the source or in the environment, should be used preferentially. There is strong evidence to recommend not using powdered allergen-rich natural rubber latex gloves. There is weak evidence that suggests workers should minimise skin exposure to asthma-inducing agents.

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