Campaign to highlight asthma in workplace: Prevention is best defence, scientists say

MORE THAN 1,000 adults a year are developing asthma induced by substances encountered at work. But in the majority of cases the life- threatening disease is avoidable, health and safety experts said yesterday.

Some sufferers are so disabled they cannot work, or have to change jobs. About 200 substances or 'respiratory sensitisors' have been identified as agents which can trigger asthma. The Health and Safety Executive, the Government's safety inspectorate, has launched a year-long awareness campaign for industry.

'Occupational asthma can be an extremely distressing and a life-threatening disease. Respiratory sensitisors are encountered in a wide range of industries including agriculture, food manufacture, electronics, metal manufacture, plastics and chemical processing and woodworking,' Dr Tim Carter, director of Medical Services and Field Operations at the HSE, said.

He advised employees to be aware of the first signs of an allergic response, which might include coughing, wheezing or shortness of breath. 'Classic occupational asthma is experienced at the end of the working day but gets better at the weekend,' he said. He said the first line of defence was to avoid becoming sensitised.

Asthma is largely seen as a condition that starts in childhood and incidence in children has doubled since the mid 1960s, according to the National Asthma Campaign, which supports the HSE initiative. These increases are put down to increased diagnosis, but also to air pollution, particularly that caused by vehicle emissions, and to modern living. Central heating, fitted carpets and double glazing provide a good environment for the house-dust mite, a known cause of asthma.

But many people are unaware that asthma can also start in adult life, and for the past five years the HEA has been working with chest physicians around the country to identify, for the first time, the scale of the problem. The 1,000 new cases a year are only those severe enough for the sufferer to be referred to a hospital consultant for treatment.

Dr Carter said there were two types of allergens, those from specific chemicals and those found in proteins. 'Among chemicals, isocyanates, used in paint spraying, a number of ingredients used in dyeing and soluble salts of nickel and platinum are established causes. With the proteins the food and farming industries using hay, flour and grains will be involved, wood dust is another,' he said.

Dr Carter said that the first line of defence was to remove the allergen if possible. When that was impossible, then good ventilation would often provide the solution. 'Preventive clothing is a last resort,' he added.

Preventing Asthma at Work, How to Control Respiratory Sensitisors; HSE Books, PO Box 1999, Sudbury, Suffolk CO10 6FS; and Dillons; pounds 6.25.

Leading article, page 15

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks
tv

Regular cast member Ste Hay, played by Kieron Richardson, is about to test TV boundaries

Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
techPerils of 'text neck' revealed
News
i100
News
Stonewall CEO Ruth Hunt
peopleStonewall boss says many fear it could ruin their careers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Argyll Scott International: FP&A Manager Supply Chain

Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Argyll Scott is recruiting for a Permane...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property NQ+

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: COMMERCIAL PROPERTY SOLI...

Argyll Scott International: Retail Commercial Finance Analyst

Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Due to further expansion, a leading inte...

Langley James : Senior Technician; Promotion & Training Opp; Borough; upto £32k

£27000 - £32000 per annum + training: Langley James : Senior Technician; Promo...

Day In a Page

Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines
Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?

What are Jaden and Willow on about?

Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?
Fridge gate: How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces

Cold war

How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces
Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

From dogs in cars to online etiquette, while away a few minutes in peace with one of these humorous, original and occasionally educational tomes
Malky Mackay appointed Wigan manager: Three texts keep Scot’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

Three texts keep Mackay’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

New Wigan manager said all the right things - but until the FA’s verdict is delivered he is still on probation, says Ian Herbert
Louis van Gaal: the liberal, the enemy and... err, the poet

Louis van Gaal: the liberal, the enemy and... err, the poet

‘O, Louis’ is the plaintive title of a biography about the Dutchman. Ian Herbert looks at what it tells us about the Manchester United manager
Isis in Iraq: Baghdad hails the retaking of the Baiji oil refinery as the start of the long fightback against the Islamist militants

Isis takes a big step back

Baghdad hails the retaking of the Baiji oil refinery as the start of the long fightback against the Islamist militants
Bill Cosby: America’s beloved TV ‘dad’ or serial rapist?

Bill Cosby: America’s beloved TV ‘dad’ or serial rapist?

Ukip silk bow ties, Green Party T-shirts, and 'Iron Baby' romper suits: How to shop politically

How to shop politically

Ukip silk bow ties, Green Party T-shirts, and 'Iron Baby' romper suits
The science of sex: What happens when science meets erotica

Sex on the brain

Fetishes, dominatrixes, kinks and erotica. They are subjects that should get the crowds flocking to a new exhibition at the Wellcome Collection