Costs of occupational asthma in the UK.

Jonathan Ayres, R Boyd, H Cowie, Jennifer Hurley

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

49 Citations (Scopus)


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 million (2004 prices). Grossing up for all estimated cases of occupational asthma in the UK in 2003, this came to £70-100 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 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)128-33
Number of pages6
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2011


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