Being exposed to certain types of surface materials at work appears to increase adults’ risk of developing asthma, a new study shows.
“These findings underline the need to consider the health aspects of materials used in floor, wall, and other indoor surfaces,” Dr. Jouni J. K. Jaakkola of the University of Helsinki in Finland and colleagues conclude in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
A number of materials used in furnishing indoor environments may emit pollutants with the capacity to irritate the airways, the researchers note. While studies have linked certain materials, pollutants and even renovations to asthma in children, they add, there have been no reports on how such exposure might affect adults’ asthma risk.
To investigate, the researchers compared 521 adults newly diagnosed with asthma over a 2.5-year period and a control group of 932 adults without asthma. They were surveyed about the materials they were exposed to at home and at work as well as whether they had renovated their homes over the past year.
Exposure to plastic wall coverings on the job increased asthma risk 2.43-fold, the researchers found, while people who worked in offices with wall-to-wall carpeting were 1.73 times more likely to have developed asthma. When mold problems were present at a person’s workplace, and there was wall-to-wall carpeting there, the risk of developing asthma more than quadrupled.
Also, while home renovation in itself had no association with asthma risk, the researchers found that people living in homes where plaster had been used to level floors were at an 80 percent increased risk of asthma.
“Our study provides new evidence that both plastic and textile surface materials in workplace indoor environments may play a role in the causation of asthma in adulthood,” the researchers conclude.
SOURCE: American Journal of Epidemiology, October 15, 2006
Revision date: July 5, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD