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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and occupational exposures

Piera Boschetto*, Sonia Quintavalle, Deborah Miotto, Natalina Lo Cascio, Elena Zeni and Cristina E Mapp

Author Affiliations

Department of Experimental and Clinical Medicine, University of Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy

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Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology 2006, 1:11  doi:10.1186/1745-6673-1-11

Published: 7 June 2006


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in both industrialized and developing countries.

Cigarette smoking is the major risk factor for COPD. However, relevant information from the literature published within the last years, either on general population samples or on workplaces, indicate that about 15% of all cases of COPD is work-related.

Specific settings and agents are quoted which have been indicated or confirmed as linked to COPD. Coal miners, hard-rock miners, tunnel workers, concrete-manufacturing workers, nonmining industrial workers have been shown to be at highest risk for developing COPD.

Further evidence that occupational agents are capable of inducing COPD comes from experimental studies, particularly in animal models.

In conclusion, occupational exposure to dusts, chemicals, gases should be considered an established, or supported by good evidence, risk factor for developing COPD. The implications of this substantial occupational contribution to COPD must be considered in research planning, in public policy decision-making, and in clinical practice.