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Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 1997 Nov;156(5):1440-6.

Chronic bronchitis, shortness of breath, and airway obstruction by occupation in New Zealand.

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Wellington Asthma Research Group, Wellington School of Medicine, New Zealand.


The objectives of this study were to measure the population prevalence of symptoms of chronic obstructive lung disease and mild airway obstruction and to compare these between occupational groups. There were 1,609 subjects (63.9% response rate) who completed a respiratory questionnaire. Of these, 1,132 (70.4%) underwent pulmonary function testing (FEV1 and FVC). Twenty-one categories of current occupation were used for analysis. Four definitions of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) were used: (1) chronic bronchitis, (2) chronic bronchitis with airway obstruction, (3) shortness of breath, and (4) shortness of breath with airway obstruction. For chronic bronchitis, adjusted prevalence odds ratios were significantly elevated for food processors other than bakers (OR = 2.83; 95% CI, 1.27 to 6.29) and chemical processors (OR = 18.84; 3.71 to 95.64). The combination of chronic bronchitis and mild airway obstruction (FEV1/FVC < 0.75) was associated with bakers (OR = 25.5; 3.86 to 168.53) and spray painters (OR = 14.40; 2.85-72.69). Shortness of breath was associated with hairdressers (OR = 2.75; 0.80 to 9.42) and bakers (OR = 6.72; 0.57 to 79.66), and nursing was associated with lower levels of shortness of breath (OR = 0.42; 0.16 to 1.15). Working ever with vapors, gases, dust, or fumes was significantly associated with chronic bronchitis and airway obstruction (OR = 3.13; 1.07 to 9.12). This population-based study has identified certain occupations with increased prevalence of chronic bronchitis and COPD.

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