IRSST - Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail


Asthma in the Workplace – 6 Fact Sheets

Asthma in the Workplace – 6 Fact Sheets

Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease caused by inflammation and constriction in the bronchial passage that makes breathing—especially exhaling—difficult.

Usually, asthma is the result of allergic reactions to certain substances in your environment, such as pollen, dust, mites, chemical substances and others. Its main symptoms are coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing and tightness in the chest.

What about asthma in the workplace?

This term includes occupational asthma (OA) and work-exacerbated asthma.

Asthma that has a latency period: in this case, symptoms appear after several weeks, months or even years of contact with the allergen;

Asthma that has no latency period, also called irritant-induced asthma. Symptoms surface very soon after accidental exposure to high concentrations of harmful substances such as chlorine and ammonia.

Work-aggravated asthma is pre-existing asthma that is aggravated by irritants such as cleaning products or physical factors such as extreme ambient temperatures.

There are more than 250 workplace agents (sensitizers) that are known to cause asthma[1]. Asthma-causing agents can be found in many employment sectors and industries.

Six prevention fact sheets on some hazardous professions

[1] Harver, A., & Kotses, H. (2010). Asthma, health and society: A public health perspective. New York: Springer.