Study: Prevention and identification of irritant-induced asthma protects work ability


The Irritant-induced Asthma project of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health drew up practical guidelines that help occupational health services and high-risk workplaces identify, prevent and treat occupational asthma. The guidelines are based on internationally extensive research data. It is estimated that in Finland tens of thousands of employees are exposed to substances that cause significant irritation to the respiratory tract and can cause occupational asthma, which can decrease functional and work ability as well as quality of life.

Media release of The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health 15.9.2023

In its Irritant-induced Asthma project, the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health studied the risk factors for irritant-induced occupational asthma, the best ways for preventing and identifying the illness and surveyed patients’ functional and work ability. The study provides new and internationally significant information as this is the largest occupational asthma dataset to have ever been analysed.

Occupational disease of core industrial sectors

The largest at-risk groups of irritant-induced asthma are employees in the industrial sector along with metal, repair and construction workers. Typical exposure situations include process leaks and the burning or heating of substances, which can happen either over a long period of time or in a sudden accident.

"If an employee breathes in a highly corrosive substance and the concentration is high, the lungs can be damaged in just a few breaths. Even short exposure may cause severe asthma, which will cause symptoms regardless of medical treatment,” says Irmeli Lindström, Chief Medical Officer specialised in pulmonary diseases.

New guidelines for co-operation between workplaces and occupational health care

The Irritant-induced Asthma project provides clear and practical tools for occupational health care and workplaces for identifying, preventing and treating irritant-induced asthma. The project produced three printable operational models.

  • What to do when irritant-induced asthma is suspected at the workplace or occupational health care
  • How to examine irritant-induced asthma in occupational health care
  • What to do in exceptional situations, such as a fire, process leak or chemical accident

“Information is an important way of preventing occupational disease at workplaces, as irritant-induced asthma can be difficult to identify. We drew up clear guidelines that occupational health care and workplaces can use together to identify risks and prevent employees from being affected by irritant-induced asthma,” says Lindström.

Further information

  • Irmeli Lindström, Chief Medical Officer, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, +358 46 851 1898, irmeli.lindstrom@ttl.fi
  • Katri Suuronen, Senior Specialist, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, +358 40 555 3510, katri.suuronen@ttl.fi 
  • Satu Soini, Chief Medical Officer, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, +358 46 851 5858, satu.soini@ttl.fi

Learn more




The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH) researches, develops and specializes in well-being at work. It promotes occupational health and safety and the well-being of workers. It is an independent institution under public law, working under the administrative sector of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. It has five regional offices, and its headquarters are in Helsinki. The number of personnel is about 500.

For the media | Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (ttl.fi)

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