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Curtin develops list of asthma causing chemicals in the workplace

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Curtin University has led the development of a comprehensive list of chemicals and dusts which can contribute to adult-onset asthma in Australian workplaces.

Project leader, Professor Lin Fritschi, Curtin’s School of Public Health, said between 1,000 and 3,000 new cases of asthma in Australia annually could be attributed to workplace exposures.

“Approximately one in six cases of adult-onset asthma is due to chemicals and dusts at work,” Professor Fritschi said.

“Asthma can have immediate or latent life threatening health risks which can go on to significantly impact a person’s career and financial status.

“To be able to implement policy and preventative practices to reduce the burden of occupational asthma, we developed the first comprehensive and inclusive list of Australian occupationally relevant asthmagens.”

The research identified 277 chemicals and dusts specific to Australian workplaces including latex gloves, animals, flour, cleaning and sterilising agents, metals, pesticides, dyes and foods.

“Carpenters, panel beaters, welders, laboratory workers and farmers are amongst the occupations likely to be exposed to these chemicals and dusts,” Professor Fritschi said.

“Future studies will seek to provide information to assist regulators to further identify industries, occupations, specific activities and existing exposure standards that can be targeted to improve worker health and welfare.”

The research was completed in collaboration with Monash University, University of Sydney and University of Western Australia.

Funded by National Health and Medical Research Council and SafeWork Australia, the list has been published in The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.

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