Occupational exposures play a role in the etiology of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) but more research is needed into the working life of those with IPF, specifically on the duration and intensity of exposure and on multipollutant exposure, according to a study published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health. 

The task of understanding the pathophysiology of IPF is hampered by its status as an orphan disease. Nevertheless, a number of intersecting risk factors have been proposed: aging, smoking status, viral infections, genetic alterations, etc.

The authors of this study hypothesized that occupational and nonoccupational environmental exposures are significantly associated with IPF. They hence conducted a literature review to uncover any data concerning the relationship between occupational/environmental exposures and IPF. 

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The research team conducted a literature search using a number of academic online databases. They used keywords such as “IPF,” “occupational,” and “environment” and analyzed studies consisting of adults with a confirmed diagnosis of IPF and an exploration of potential links with occupational and environmental conditions. Sixteen studies were included in their final analysis. 

The results of their meta-analysis revealed a statistically significant relationship between various occupational/environmental exposures and the incidence of IPF. They reported that workers exposed to general metal dust have a 40% rise in risk of developing IPF. Exposure to wood dust raised the overall risk to 30%. 

In terms of occupational risk, workers working in the agricultural sector (farmers and bird breeders), hairdressers, as well as chemical and petrochemical workers had an elevated risk of developing IPF. 

“These meta-analyses confirmed the role of some occupational factors and some occupations in IPF,” the authors concluded. 

IPF is typically characterized by symptoms such as cough, fatigue, and dyspnea. Although the cause of this disease is unknown, scientists understand that progressive pulmonary function impairment leads to chronic respiratory failure and early death. 


Pauchet A, Chaussavoine A, Pairon JC, et al. Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis: what do we know about the role of occupational and environmental determinants? a systematic literature review and meta-analysisJ Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. 2022;25(7):372-392. doi:10.1080/10937404.2022.2131663