Occupational asthma is important both as a potentially curable and preventable cause of asthma and as a model of adult onset asthma. It is induced by sensitization to a specific agent inhaled at work; for many of its causes, including inhaled proteins and the low molecular weight chemicals acid anhydrides and reactive dyes, it is probably IgE dependent. The risk of developing specific IgE and associated asthma is markedly increased in cigarette smokers, probably as a consequence of non-specific damage to the respiratory mucosa. Asthma caused by several agents, which include some of its most frequent causes, isocyanates, colophony and plicatic acid (Western Red Cedar) persists in some 50% of cases for years, and possibly indefinitely, after avoidance of exposure. The development of chronic symptomatic asthma seems particularly to occur in those with longer duration of symptomatic exposure.
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