Nearly one in 10 workers - and one in three with the disease - complained that they suffered a tight or wheezy chest at work, according to results presented to the British Thoracic Society.
The study, based on interviews with nearly 1,500 20 to 44-year-olds living in East Anglia, shows that more than 8 per cent of asthmatics had changed their jobs because of breathing difficulties at work.
It follows a Health and Safety Executive report last month which showed that people who inhaled chemicals and airborne "respiratory sensitisers" at work could become asthma sufferers.
The HSE report confirms for the first time that industrial workers may suffer irreversible allergic reactions simply because they came into contact with airborne irritants.
The latest survey was performed by public health doctors from the United Medical and Dental Schools at St Thomas's Hospital, London, who analysed lung symptoms and occupational histories from a random sample of young adults as part of a European Community Respiratory Health Survey.
The young people's jobs ranged from semi-skilled labouring to office-based work.
The survey also found that people who reported symptoms suggestive of asthma were more likely to be unemployed than those who did not.Reuse content