Occupational Exposures and Subclinical Interstitial Lung Disease: The MESA (Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis) Air–Lung Study

Coralynn Sack | 2018

Advisor: Joel D. Kaufman

Research Area(s): Environmental & Occupational Health



The impact of a broad range of occupational exposures on subclinical interstitial lung disease (ILD) has not been studied. Objectives: To determine whether occupational exposures to vapors, gas, dust, and fumes (VGDF) are associated with high-attenuation areas (HAAs) and interstitial lung abnormalities (ILAs4 ), which are quantitative and qualitative computed tomography (CT)–based measurements of subclinical ILD, respectively.


We performed analyses of participants enrolled in MESA (Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis), a population-based cohort aged 45–84 years at recruitment. HAA was measured at baseline and on serial cardiac CT scans in 5,702 participants. ILA was ascertained in a subset of 2,312 participants who underwent full-lung CT scanning at 10-year follow-up. Occupational exposures were assessed by self-reported VGDF exposure and by job-exposure matrix (JEM). Linear mixed models and logistic regression were used to determine whether occupational exposures were associated with log-transformed HAA and ILA. Models were adjusted for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, employment status, tobacco use, and scanner technology.


Each JEM score increment in VGDF exposure was associated with 2.64% greater HAA (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.23–4.19%). Self-reported vapors/gas exposure was associated with an increased odds of ILA among those currently employed (1.76-fold; 95% CI, 1.09–2.84) and those less than 65 years old (1.97-fold; 95% CI, 1.16–3.35). There was no consistent evidence that occupational exposures were associated with progression of HAA over the follow-up period.


JEM-assigned and self-reported exposures to VGDF were associated with measurements of subclinical ILD in community-dwelling adults.