• Occupational upper airway disease.

      Walusiak-Skorupa, Jolanta (2006-02)
      PURPOSE OF REVIEW: This article reviews recent findings concerning occupational upper airway diseases, which, although very frequent, are usually not considered serious. However, the concept of the 'united airway', evoked during recent years, should change our attitude regarding these diseases. Moreover, new agents in the occupational environment must be characterized. Furthermore, exposure to carcinogens has changed over the years, and in most cases risk should be reassessed. RECENT FINDINGS: Recent findings concerning work-related upper airway diseases caused by allergens and irritants, and their relationship to lower airway diseases, are reviewed. Findings of studies aimed at characterizing occupational allergens of plant and animal origin are presented. Recognition of work-related upper airway diseases both in clinic and in epidemiological studies is discussed. Current evidence on occupational cancer of the upper airways, its risk factors and changes in them over the years resulting from preventative measures are also described. SUMMARY: There is significant evidence that occupational allergic diseases of the upper airways can pose important health problems because they represent an early stage of allergy throughout the respiratory system. However, how to detect those rhinitic patients who will develop asthma remains unresolved. New occupational health problems due to irritants were recently reported, and both follow-up studies and evaluations of their implications for the lower airways are warranted. Although preventative measures have been effective to some extent, risk for occupational cancer of the upper airways persists and more targeted epidemiological studies in this area are needed.