TORONTO, April 30, 2012 /CNW/ - Many Ontario workers are at risk of developing work-related asthma and may not know it: industrial bakers, healthcare professionals and workers in the hair, nail and beauty industry to name a few. With work-related asthma being the most common on-the-job lung disease, the Ontario Lung Association is encouraging individuals to pay attention to their work environments and take the Employee Self-Assessment Test. On the occasion of World Asthma Day, (May 1, 2012) the province's leading lung health organization is launching its new handbook for workers in the hair, nail and beauty industry, free of charge to Ontario residents.
"Work-related asthma is not rare, but unfortunately it is often unrecognized," says Dr. Mike Pyskylwec, chair of The Lung Association's Provincial Work-related Asthma Committee. "When a patient is left to work around a work-place sensitizer, his or her asthma worsens and the potential for recovery becomes less and less. It is vital in such patients to recognize the potential that something in the workplace is causing their condition so that appropriate steps can be taken to prevent progression of disease. Typically we see patients with well-advanced work-related asthma, by which point their health, and the impact on their livelihood will be substantial."
It is estimated that up to 25 per cent of working adults with asthma have symptoms that are work related. Doctors believe that up to 15 per cent of new asthma cases in adults may be due to something in their workplace.
Shirley Labelle of Crystal Beach, Ontario, worked 18 years for an industrial bakery but her work-related asthma symptoms came on in a matter of a week. "Feeling like you cannot breathe is the worst feeling in the world," says Shirley, who is now studying to be a social worker at Niagara College. "I thought to myself 'I can't live like this. I want to die because breathing is just too much work.'"
Shirley went to her family physician and was then referred to a respirologist. "Work-related asthma is a bit more challenging," says Shirley, "because you have your pay cheque in one hand but your life and health are in the other. Many people are scared to recognize the symptoms in a work situation."
What is work-related asthma?
There are two kinds of work-related asthma: occupational asthma and work-exacerbated asthma. In occupational asthma, workers develop asthma for the first time in their lives because of something at their work such as fumes, dust or mould. In some cases, occupational asthma develops slowly over many months or years. In other cases, it can develop quickly over a few days.
Work-exacerbated asthma affects workers who already have asthma and experience flare ups due to something in their workplace. This can happen as early as the first day on the job.
Workers experiencing asthma symptoms while at their place of work should take The Lung Association's Employee Self-Assessment Questionnaire.
New work-related asthma resources
The Ontario Lung Association's Provincial Work-related Asthma Committee involves partner representatives from the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) and Health and Safety Ontario (HSO), and is a key program of the government's Asthma Plan of Action. The committee aims to educate industry (management and labour) and healthcare professionals on the risks of work-related asthma, ways in which to prevent it and how to manage it once diagnosed.
What is asthma?
Asthma is a very common chronic lung disease that can make it difficult to breathe. More than 1.7 million Ontarians and more than 300 million people worldwide have asthma, including many top athletes who excel at their sports. If asthma is managed, it doesn't have to limit an individual's ability to lead a healthy, active life. At its worst, though, asthma can be fatal.
Although there is no cure for asthma, The Lung Association helps adults and children
get their asthma under control. Its Lung Health Information Line 1-888-344-LUNG (5864) is staffed by certified respiratory educators who can help callers understand what asthma control is and the steps needed to achieve that control.
About the Ontario Lung Association
The Lung Association is a registered charity that provides information, education and funding for research to improve lung health. The organization focuses on the prevention and control of asthma, chronic lung disease, tobacco control as well as healthy air and the effects of pollution on lung health. For information on lung health, call 1-888-344-LUNG (5864), which is staffed by certified respiratory educators, or visit www.on.lung.ca. You can also follow them on Twitter @OntarioLung and Facebook.
Image with caption: "Dr. Mike Pyskylwec, (R) reviews the new work-related asthma handbook for Hair, Nail and Beauty Salons with Seneca College Esthetics student Anasa Lau, and George Habib, president & CEO, Ontario Lung Association. The book is the latest in a series of free resources that help employees and employers understand the risks of work-related asthma, a disease that affects up to 25 per cent of working adults with asthma. (CNW Group/Ontario Lung Association)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20120430_C2487_PHOTO_EN_12907.jpg
For further information:
Ontario Lung Association
416-864-9911 ext 283