American Journal of Industrial Medicine. 2008 May 19. [Epub ahead of print] [Link]

van Kampen V, Merget R, Butz M, Taeger D, Brüning T.

BGFA, Research Institute of Occupational Medicine, German Social Accident Insurance, Ruhr University Bochum, Bochum, Germany.


Respiratory diseases represent a major proportion of occupational diseases in many countries. Little information is available about their incidences over the past several decades.

Based on the reports of the three German federal accident insurance agencies, the numbers of suspected and recognized cases of occupational respiratory diseases between 1970 and 2005 were collected and combined. The trends in the rates per 100,000 insured workers were calculated.

In total, a decline in occupational respiratory diseases since 1998 could be observed. This trend is mainly based on the decrease in non-malignant respiratory diseases due to silica and obstructive airway diseases. In contrast, asbestos-induced diseases showed a leveling off or an increase (mesothelioma) during the last 10 years.

Although trends in occupational disease may be influenced by several factors, the presented data indicate that prevention has been effective in reducing some of the most frequent occupational respiratory diseases in Germany.