Several studies have demonstrated an excess risk for asthma among cleaning workers. The aim of this analysis was to compare clinical, immunological and functional characteristics associated with asthma in cleaners and other occupational groups. Cleaners, workers exposed to high molecular weight (MW) agents, workers exposed to low MW agents, and office workers were identified from an international community-based epidemiological study. Influence of sex, smoking, age and atopy on the relationships with asthma was investigated. Rates of respiratory symptoms, bronchial hyperresponsiveness, atopic sensitisation and lung function were compared between asthmatics from the four groups (case-case analysis). The risk for asthma in workers exposed to low MW agents was higher among nonatopics than among atopics. Case-case analysis showed no major differences in asthma characteristics between cleaners and workers exposed to high or low MW agents. Asthmatic cleaners had less atopy, more chronic bronchitis and a lower lung function as compared to office workers. Asthma in cleaning workers showed many similarities with that in workers known to be at risk for occupational asthma. Atopic sensitisation did not seem to play an important role in cleaning-related asthma.
- European Community Respiratory Health Survey