According to the CDC’s MMWR, 2.2% of workers who have never smoked have COPD, and the prevalence is greater among women than men, and workers in the information industry.
The CDC report collected 2013–2017 data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) and found an estimated 2.4 million (2.2%) US working adults aged ?18 years who never smoked had COPD.
Of these 2.4 million never-smokers, the highest prevalences were among workers aged ?65 years (4.6%), women (3.0%), and those reporting fair/poor health (6.7%). Among specific occupations, the highest COPD prevalences were in the information (3.3%) and mining (3.1%) industries and office and administrative support occupation workers (3.3%).
Among women, the highest prevalences were among those employed in the information industry (5.1%) and in the transportation and material moving occupation (4.5%). Among men, greatest prevalence was for those employed in the agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting industry (2.3%) and the administrative and support, waste management, and remediation services industry (2.3%).
Researchers explained that workers in the office and administrative support industry (including secretaries, administrative and dental assistants, and clerks), protective service workers, and information industry workers (including publishing, telecommunications, broadcasting, and data processing workers) can be exposed to organic and inorganic dusts, isocyanates, irritant gases, paper dust and fumes from photocopiers, chemicals, oil-based ink, paints, glues, isocyanates, toxic metals, and solvents, all of which are known respiratory irritants and have been associated with bronchitis, emphysema, and COPD.
“The findings of high COPD prevalences among workers who never smoked corroborates findings that occupational exposures, in addition to smoking, might be associated with development of COPD,” researchers concluded. “Efforts to reduce adverse workplace exposures (including exposure to dust, vapors, fumes, chemicals, and indoor and outdoor air pollutants) and promote research to characterize the many contributing risk factors in COPD are needed to reduce the prevalence of COPD.”