Ontario Lung Association

Ontario Lung Association

May 04, 2009 13:03 ET

Ontario Lung Association: Asthma at Work

Ontario Lung Association spotlights work-related asthma on World Asthma Day, May 5th

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - May 4, 2009) -

Editors Note: Two photos and an audio file are available with this press release.

Work-related asthma is the most common lung disease on the job, says the Ontario Lung Association. It's also estimated that about 10 to 15% of new cases of asthma in Canadian adults can be blamed on something in their workplace.

"There's a common misconception about who's at risk. Many people think that occupations like miners and chemical workers are at high risk. But in fact, hairdressers, dental hygienists, industrial bakers and even teachers are at risk, too," says Dr. Susan Tarlo, a respirologist at the University of Toronto and a spokesperson for the Ontario Lung Association for World Asthma Day.

It's estimated that 25% of working Canadian adults with asthma experience, at one time or another, symptoms that are job-related. Any worker is at risk, but some jobs put workers at higher risk, such as construction, farming, painting, cleaning, baking, animal handling and chemical work. Other at-risk occupations include nursing, welding, food processing, dentistry, timber and forestry industries, and industries that produce metals, plastics, electronics, rubber and textiles.

Lawrence Dion's life seemed idyllic. In the summers he baked - a passion he'd had since he was a young boy and in the winters he taught skiing. He attended George Brown College in Toronto and apprenticed in Midland and it wasn't long before he started to feel the symptoms of asthma, sometimes known as "bakers' lungs."

"I felt it right away," says Lawrence, "but no one told me that you could be at risk for asthma because of flour dust."

That was more than 20 years and countless allergy tests ago, all of which tested Lawrence for environmental triggers, but nothing related to the workplace. "I got used to feeling lousy at work," says Lawrence. "I was taking allergy shots but my condition never got any better. A few times I ended up in the Emergency Department because I couldn't breathe."

When Lawrence finally saw Dr. Tarlo, she didn't mince any words and told him on the spot that he "was done as a baker." Now Lawrence is being retrained as a lab technician through the Michener Institute. While he misses baking, he doesn't miss the discomfort associated with the asthma that was triggered every time he did so.

More than 300 substances have been identified as causing occupational asthma, including cleaning products, wood dust, isocyanates (the raw materials used in polyurethane products), food and animal protein, formaldehyde, latex and baking flour and solder flux.

If identified early, work-related asthma can be prevented. "In the case of occupational asthma, early removal from exposure can cure asthma. For work-exacerbated asthma, preventive measures can be taken to protect workers at risk and adequate medications can be prescribed," says Dr. Tarlo.

Nearly one million Ontarians have asthma. Because it is often unrecognized, it is not known how many cases of work-related asthma exist in the province.

Symptoms of Asthma

- Coughing and wheezing

- Chest tightness

- Shortness of breath

- Trouble sleeping because of breathing difficulty

- Not able to take part in physical activities

The Ontario Lung Association advises employees to know the risks, protect themselves and see their healthcare provider if they recognize these symptoms while at work.

About The Lung Association:

The Lung Association is one of Canada's oldest voluntary, not-for-profit health-promotion organizations. The Lung Association is concerned with the prevention and control of asthma, chronic lung disease caused by smoking and with air quality and its effect on lung health. The Ontario Lung Association was incorporated in 1945, and has community offices across the province.

Visit the Ontario Lung Association online at www.on.lung.ca, or call 1-888-344-LUNG (5864) for more information about work-related asthma and other lung health issues.

Ontario Lung Association's new public awareness campaign poster for work-related asthma is available for downloading at www.on.lung.ca.

To view the poster, please visit the link below:


To view both photo's associated with this press release, please visit the links below:



Contact Information

  • Ontario Lung Association
    Karen Petcoff
    Office: 416-864-9911 ext 283
    Cellular: 416-275-6844