CDC Reports on Work-related Asthma at a Syntactic Foam Manufacturing Facility
An article in the April 24 issue of the CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) about a cluster of work-related asthma among employees working at a syntactic foam manufacturing facility illustrates what the agency identifies as important features of work-related asthma. In 2012, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s CDC-funded, state-based surveillance identified the cluster of work-related asthma at the facility, where employees manufactured syntactic foam used for flotation in the offshore oil and gas industry. The department received nine reports of work-related asthma among workers at the same facility from 2008 to 2012, which, in addition to a request from employees at the facility, led to a CDC health hazard evaluation that extended into 2013. CDC investigators found that workers’ asthma risk was 12 times higher after hire than before, possibly because of known asthma triggers used in production. The investigation did not identify a specific cause of the asthma cases at the facility, but found potential causes of asthma such as amines and anhydrides found in epoxy resin systems. The MMWR article includes details of the CDC workplace investigation and discusses a case report of an employee who previously worked at the syntactic foam manufacturer and suffered from work-related asthma.