OBJECTIVES: To date, only a few studies have investigated the associations between occupational exposures and respiratory outcomes longitudinally in the general population. We investigated the associations between occupational exposures and the development of respiratory symptoms and airway obstruction in the Lifelines Cohort Study.
METHODS: We included 35 739 occupationally active subjects with data on chronic cough, chronic phlegm, chronic bronchitis or airway obstruction at baseline and approximately 4.5 years follow-up. Exposures to biological dust, mineral dust, gases/fumes, pesticides, solvents and metals in the current job at baseline were estimated with the ALOHA+job-exposure matrix (JEM). Airway obstruction was defined as FEV1/FVC below the lower limit of normal. Logistic regression analysis adjusted for baseline covariates was used to investigate the associations.
RESULTS: At follow-up, 1888 (6.0%), 1495 (4.7%), 710 (2.5%) and 508 (4.5%) subjects had developed chronic cough, chronic phlegm, chronic bronchitis and airway obstruction, respectively. High exposure to biological dust was associated with a higher odds to develop chronic cough and chronic bronchitis. High exposure to pesticides was associated with a higher odds for the development of all respiratory symptoms and airway obstruction. In the multiple exposures analyses, only the association between pesticides exposure and respiratory symptoms remained.
CONCLUSIONS: Subjects exposed to high pesticides had a higher odds to develop respiratory symptoms on average 4.5 years later. Control measures should be taken to reduce pesticides exposure among the working population to prevent respiratory symptoms and airway obstruction.