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When Dust Attacks

Workplace-related asthma is nothing to wheeze at.

Occupational asthma costs businesses an estimated $400 million per year. And with nearly 30 percent of all adult asthma cases traced to the workplace environment, as an employer, you've got a vested interest in helping employees breathe easier, and conditions are relatively easy to control.

That's because the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) recently published a checklist of health and safety recommendations to help control workplace asthma. "Employers need to work with employees, because it's an issue of lost or poor productivity due to coughing and shortness of breath," explains Jane Barlow, medical doctor and co-author of the checklist.

These inexpensive and easy-to-implement tips are among those highlighted by the ACOEM: Use exhaust ventilation to keep dust and allergens away; periodically inspect ventilation systems for mold growths; and on days when pollen counts are high, move asthmatic employees to a better-controlled work area.

You can access a complete copy of the checklist by logging on to ACOEM's Web site at www.acoem.org/whatsnew/99checklist.htm or by calling (847) 818-1800. For general facts about asthma and the workplace, visit OSHA's Web site at www.osha.gov.



Ellen Paris is a Washington, DC, writer and former Forbes magazine staff writer.

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This article was originally published in the June 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: When Dust Attacks.

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