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Work-Related Asthma in Korea - Findings from the Korea Work-Related Asthma Surveillance (KOWAS) program, 2004-2009
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    Purpose

    To determine the incidence and epidemiological characteristics of work-related asthma in Korea.

    Methods

    During 2004-2009, the Korea Work-Related Asthma Surveillance (KOWAS) program collected data on new cases of work-related asthma from occupational physicians, allergy and chest physicians, regional surveillance systems, and workers' compensation schemes. The incidence was calculated on the basis of industry, occupation, sex, age, and region. In addition, the distribution of causal agents was determined.

    Results

    During the study period, 236 cases of work-related asthma were reported, with 77 cases from more than 1 source. A total of 22.0% (n=52) were reported by occupational physicians, 52.5% (n=124) by allergy and chest physicians, 24.2% (n=57) by regional surveillance systems, and 43.2% (n=102) by workers' compensation schemes. The overall average annual incidence was 3.31 cases/million workers, with a rate of 3.78/million among men and 2.58/million among women. The highest incidence was observed in the 50-59-year age group (7.74/million), in the Gyeonggi/Incheon suburb of Seoul (8.50/million), in the furniture and other instrument manufacturing industries (67.62/million), and among craft and related trades workers (17.75/million). The most common causal agents were isocyanates (46.6%), flour/grain (8.5%), metal (5.9%), reactive dyes (5.1%), and solvents (4.2%).

    Conclusions

    The incidence of work-related asthma in Korea was relatively low, and varied according to industry, occupation, gender, age, and region. Data provided by workers' compensation schemes and physician reports have been useful for determining the incidence and causes of work-related asthma.