Seafarers and others who work on the seas had more than double the risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), an umbrella term for chronic bronchitis, emphysema and other progressive lung diseases, according to a study presented in December.
Most commonly brought on by cigarette smoking, COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States. In developing countries, however, indoor and outdoor air quality, including pollution, are believed to play a bigger role in the development and prevalence of COPD.
The latest study was one of the largest of its kind in Europe, the British Thoracic Society said, and included 228,614 working participants in 353 classified occupations. The risky jobs, in the order of the highest prevalence ratio to the lowest, were:
- Seafarers (merchant navy) and boat operatives (PR: 2.64)
- Coal mine operatives (PR: 2.30)
- Industrial cleaning process occupations (PR: 1.96)
- Roofers/tilers/slaters (PR: 1.86)
- Packers/bottlers/canners/fillers (PR: 1.60)
- Food/drink & tobacco process operatives (PR: 1.46)
- Domestic cleaners (PR: 1.43)
- Floorers & wall tilers (PR: 1.41)
- Postal workers/couriers (PR: 1.35)
“Exposure to occupational hazards is both avoidable and involuntary; therefore it is essential to identify the occupations at higher risk of COPD in order to try and then eliminate or at least reduce the burden of work-related lung disease,” lead author of the study, Dr. Sara de Matteis, Academic Clinical Lecturer at the National Heart & Lung Institute at Imperial College London, was quoted as saying.
COPD takes decades to develop. And some workers might have been exposed to workplace hazards when there were no legislative safeguards, Dr. de Matteis added.