Study: Occupational COPD a big problem

Thursday, February 28, 2002

NORTHBROOK, Ill. - The rising costs and incidence of occupational COPD and asthma warrant preventive intervention, says a study reported in CHEST, the peer-reviewed journal of the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP).

Looking at both direct and indirect costs, the study found that $6.6 billion was spent on obstructive lung diseases in 1996. Given the increasing prevalence of COPD and asthma as well as inflation, the costs would be roughly $8.5 billion in 2001, the study concluded.

"COPD and asthma incidence can be reduced or prevented by cutting down on dust and particulate matter in the workplace air," said study author J. Paul Leigh, PhD, professor of health economics in the Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, School of Medicine, University of California at Davis. "One way to reduce the pollution might be to tax the industries that generate poor air and use those funds to pay Medicare directly. That approach provides an incentive for industry to clean up their air while lessening the financial burden on Medicare, and thus the taxpaying public."

Reviewing data from national surveys and applying a population attributable risk (PAR) of 15% for both asthma and COPD, the study team found costs of $5 billion for COPD (56% were direct costs; 44% were indirect) and $1.6 billion for asthma (74% were direct; 26% were indirect).

Direct costs included medical and administrative expenses and indirect costs included lost wages, lost fringe benefits and lost home production.

In terms of human deaths, the study estimated 15,032 occupational COPD deaths and 805 occupational asthma deaths in 1996, assuming a 15 percent PAR. HME