Helsinki (15.10.2001 - Juhani Artto) About 100,000 Finns of working age suffer from persistent asthma requiring medication. While previous studies suggested that work-related factors were responsible for 5 to 10 per cent of these cases, a new extensive follow-up study* has led five Finnish researchers to a different conclusion.

Of the 50,000 new asthma incidents in 1986-1998, work related factors were blamed in 29 per cent of the male cases and 17 per cent of the female cases. The study covered the entire working population aged 25 to 59 years.

The biggest risks occur in the foodstuffs sector, agriculture, painting and engineering jobs. All of these pose roughly twice the risk as compared with office work. Of the 70 occupational groups studied, 29 demonstrate an increased risk of contracting asthma both for men and women.

The researchers also concluded that the prospects for preventing these cases are much greater than was previously assumed. More than 200 substances may cause occupational asthma.

*Antti Karjalainen, Kari Kurppa, Rami Martikainen, Timo Klaukka, Jussi Karjalainen: "Work is related to a substantial portion of adult-onset asthma incidence in the Finnish population"