Nationwide prevalence of asthma, the most common form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), is increasing. It is estimated that nearly 25 million Americans suffer from this incurable, debilitating condition, accounting for nearly 5,000 of emergency room visits daily. This is a concern for the general population, but a recent study showed that asthma incidence is on the rise, particularly among healthcare providers.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have awarded a 4-year grant worth $1.3 million to a team of researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center (UTHealth) School of Public Health. The grant will support research efforts on examining asthma risk among Texan healthcare workers over the past decade.
It was 11 years ago when these investigators noticed an increase in asthma risk among members of the healthcare team, most notably among nurses. According to their survey, 7.3% of nurses and 4.2-5.6% of physicians, and respiratory and occupational therapists developed asthma after beginning their professional practice.
The researchers listed several occupational tasks in healthcare that increase the risk for developing asthma. Regular exposure to harsh cleaning agents and disinfectants, inhalation of powder in latex gloves, and aerosolized medications were identified as potential factors.
Since then, hospital standards and practices have changed, but Dr. George Delclos and his team want to know if these amendments are effective in reducing respiratory problems. This follow-up study will involve administering the same survey as before, but to a bigger group of participants, and will sort out risk between vocational nurses, registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and nurse professionals. Additionally, it will examine the role of asthma in health-related absences.
Another substance-related risk for asthma is prenatal phthalate exposure. While this substance has been banned from children’s toys, it is still present in many everyday objects, making it difficult for pregnant women to minimize exposure.