Occupational Asthma Reference

Allan KM, Murphy E, Ayres JG, Assessment of respiratory health surveillance for laboratory animal workers, Occup Med, 2010;60:458-463,

Keywords: surveillance, laboratory animal, audit, Scotland

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Jon Ayres, University of Birmingham Jon Ayres

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Background Occupational asthma is the most common work-related respiratory disease in the UK. Individuals whose work potentially puts them at risk include those exposed to laboratory animals. Workplace health surveillance programmes aim to minimize these health risks but are recognized to be challenging to implement effectively.

Aims To evaluate the efficacy of the respiratory health surveillance programme provided by a National Health Service occupational health service (OHS) to individuals potentially exposed to respiratory sensitizers at work with laboratory animals.

Methods Case notes from the OHS respiratory health surveillance programme over a 2 year period were examined. Symptom detection by the OHS surveillance questionnaire was compared to a cross-sectional survey using items from the validated International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (IUATLD) questionnaire. The surveillance spirometry records were audited against good standards of practice.

Results The response rate for the anonymized survey using IUATLD questions was 60% and detected similar numbers of potential work-related symptoms to the OHS surveillance questionnaire. Over 80% of spirometry records met accepted standards for technique, effort and recording. In this study of 85 individuals over 2 years, three cases of occupational asthma were identified.

Conclusions The current surveillance appears to be effective in identifying potential cases of occupational asthma. Modification of the questionnaire content and layout might improve response rates. This study suggests that spirometry does not detect new cases other than those already identified by questionnaire.

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