Occupational asthma is not a rare disorder. Work-related asthma is now the most prevalent occupational lung disorder in industrialized nations.1
The prevalence is such that if one maintains a high degree of suspicion when faced with a patient of working age who presents with respiratory symptoms, there is a good chance that one will occasionally make this diagnosis.
Just how common is occupational asthma? The prevalence of asthma in the United States has been conservatively estimated to be 3 to 6% of the population. The prevalence of occupational asthma has been conservatively estimated to be from 2 to 5% of all cases of asthma. A recent study found an attributable fraction of asthma related to occupation of 29% in men and 17% in women.2
Five to 15% is the most frequently quoted range.1
If we take a conservative figure of 5% of the population as being asthmatic and say that 5% of the asthmatic population acquired their asthma from the workplace, an estimated 600,000 to 700,000 individuals have occupational asthma in this country. This, of course, is no small number.