American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH)

Asthma Awareness Month and Mitigating Occupational Asthma Triggers


The ABIH® supports building awareness of asthma and protecting workers from respiratory irritants, allergens and hazards.

Lansing, MI -- The entire month of May has been designated as Asthma Awareness Month and May 2nd was World Asthma Day. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that between 100 and 150 million people across the globe have asthma. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that over 24 million people have the lung disease and 9 people die from it each day. The agency also estimates asthma costs the nation $56 billion each year. 

Asthma is characterized by intermittent breathing difficulty, including chest tightness, wheezing, cough and shortness of breath. It affects people of all ages, including millions of workers. In fact, an estimated 11 million workers in the U.S. are exposed to at least one of the numerous agents known to be associated with occupational (work-related) asthma according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Occupational factors are associated with up to 15 percent of disabling asthma cases reports OSHA.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) details that more than 250 substances are known or believed to cause or exacerbate work-related asthma. These substances include many chemicals used in manufacturing; paints; cleaning products; dusts from wood, grain and flour; latex gloves; certain molds; animals; and insects.

“Asthma Awareness Month is an important reminder for employers and employees to recognize that avoiding asthma triggers in the work environment is an essential part of managing the condition for millions of workers,” said David Roskelley, CIH® and Chair of ABIH®. “A key component of this is to identify respiratory allergens and irritants so asthmatics can reduce or eliminate their exposure to these substances.”

Certified Industrial Hygienists are uniquely qualified to help prevent exposure to asthma triggers, allergens and respiratory irritants. This expertise can also help to prevent new cases of occupational asthma from occurring in the first place. CIHs are trained and experienced in conducting workplace assessments, air sampling, risk analysis, and engineering and exposure controls.  These and other core competencies of a CIH’s education are critical for establishing and maintaining a safe and healthy work environment for asthmatics and their coworkers.

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