Costs of occupational asthma in the UK

Jon G. Ayres, Richard Boyd, Hilary Cowie, J. Fintan Hurley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Objectives: To estimate the social costs of occupational asthma in the UK.

Methods: A desk-top approach using cost-of-illness methodology was employed, defining direct and indirect lifetime costs for six scenarios: a male and a female worker each exposed to isocyanates, latex and biocides (eg, glutaraldehyde) or flour. The numbers of new cases annually in each industry were estimated from Survey of Work-related and Occupational Respiratory Disease (SWORD) data. The main outcome measure was the current value total working lifetime costs of new cases annually for each scenario.

Results: Assuming 209 new cases of occupational asthma in the six scenarios in the year 2003, the present value total lifetime costs were estimated to be 25.3-27.3 pound million (2004 prices). Grossing up for all estimated cases of occupational asthma in the UK in 2003, this came to 70-100 pound million. About 49% of these costs were borne by the individual, 48% by the state and 3% by the employer.

Conclusions: The cost to society of occupational asthma in the UK is high. Given that the number of newly diagnosed cases is likely to be underestimated by at least one-third, these costs may be as large as 95-135 pound million. Each year a new stream of lifetime costs will be added as a newly diagnosed cohort is identified. Approaches to reduce the burden of occupational asthma have a strong economic justification. However, the economic burden falls on the state and the individual, not on the employer. The incentive for employers to act is thus weak.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)128-133
Number of pages6
JournalThorax
Volume66
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2011

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