A new study indicates that almost one-fifth of progressive lung diseases among construction workers may be attributable to exposure to dusts and fumes at work.

Researchers analyzed more than 800 construction workers with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease between 1997 and 2013. They found that workplace exposures were responsible for 32 percent of COPD cases among construction workers who had never smoked.

Researchers said the findings highlight the need to protect workers by focusing on all respirable irritants regardless of the source. Smoking cessation programs, although important, should not be the lone strategy for employers to reduce COPD cases among workers, they added.

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