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Study: One in 10 asthma sufferers can blame work for their symptoms

Americans spend much of their time at work, which could leave them exposed to many allergens.

That never-ending stream of sneezes and coughs you hear coming from your neighbor's cubicle may not be entirely his or her fault. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 10 percent of all asthma cases – nearly 1.5 million individuals – are attributable to allergens found in the workplace.

Research also determined that men and women were equally likely to become victims of workplace-triggered asthma symptoms, while older workers were more likely to suffer from the condition.

The CDC's website features a list of common workplace allergens, including latex, chemicals and irritants produced by animals. More common allergens, such as dust and mold, could linger in areas of a workspace that have not been properly attended to in a significant amount of time. These irritants have been shown to cause both allergy symptoms and potentially more serious asthma attacks.

So, before you come to resent your coworkers for coming to work sick and possibly spreading their germs, consider the fact that they might not be completely to blame. It may be your boss or building owner who should share the blame. You may want to request that they have a mold inspection performed or that they operate a HEPA air purifier to remove harmful irritants and particles from the working environment. A professional cleaning crew might also be hired to combat areas that stubbornly remain dirty.

According to the CDC study, businesses should pay close attention to their employees' health during working hours. After all, no executive wants his or her workers out sick, especially if the company is partially to blame for their poor health.

"[Surveillance] would enhance our understanding of work-related asthma epidemiology and enable states, other government agencies, health professionals, employers, workers and worker representatives to better target intervention efforts to reduce the burden of work-related asthma," according to the researchers.

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