By Paul Henneberger, ScD, and David Weissman, MD

Work-related respiratory diseases include both those that are uniquely caused by work, such as coal workers pneumoconiosis, and those that are caused by both work and non-work factors. Asthma is an example of this second type of condition. Work-related asthma is the most common respiratory disease treated in occupational health clinics in the United States. An estimated 15% of asthma among adults is attributable to work, and 23% of working asthmatics experience exacerbation at work. Extrapolated to all working asthmatics, this could affect 2.25 million Americans between the ages of 15 and 65. The medical costs for work-related asthma were estimated to be $2.29 billion in 2007.1 Total economic impact, including medical and non-medical costs, would be even greater. Other types of respiratory diseases potentially impacted by workplace exposures include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (or COPD), hypersensitivity pneumonitis, silicosis, lung cancer, and bronchiolitis obliterans.

The National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) is a partnership program to stimulate innovative research and improved workplace practices. Unveiled in 1996, NORA has become a research framework for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the nation. Diverse parties collaborate to identify the most critical issues in workplace safety and health. Participation in NORA is broad, including stakeholders from universities, large and small businesses, professional societies, government agencies, and worker organizations.

As we prepare to start the Respiratory Health Program in the third decade of NORA, we want to hear the opinions of...Click here to read the rest of the blog post.