An elevated risk for COPD-related deaths may be linked to certain industries and occupations. These instances suggest the need for better employee health policies and targeted interventions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a group of chronic inflammatory lung diseases. These diseases cause obstructed airflow to the lungs and breathing difficulties. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are the most common conditions that make up COPD.
A recent report published in the CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found that in 2020, 316,023 (10.3%) of employed-persons deaths were associated with COPD. Researchers analyzed the most recent data available. In 2020, of 3.1 million deceased ever-employed people from 46 states and New York City. To determine high risk industries and occupations, researchers isolated COPD-related deaths by industry. They then divided the totals by the expected number of COPD deaths. The three industries with the highest proportionate mortality ratios (PMRs) were mining, accommodation and food service, and construction. Occupations, such as food prep and serving, healthcare support, and construction, were among those with the highest PMRs.
“Findings from this report might help physicians identify workers who should be evaluated for COPD in the industries and occupations with a higher proportion of COPD deaths,” wrote the study’s authors. “The elevated COPD mortality among ever-employed persons in certain industries and occupations underscores the importance of targeted interventions to prevent COPD from developing and intervening before it becomes symptomatic or severe.”
In 2020, COPD was the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. While the reasons for high rates of COPD in certain industries is not well-defined, workplace exposures such as secondhand smoke, dust, fumes, and vapors are likely contributing risk factors and hazards, according to the report.
“Continued surveillance, including collection of detailed industry and occupational history and etiologic research to further characterize occupational risk factors for COPD, is essential to guide interventions and policies to improve workers’ health,” concluded the authors.