Occupational disease cluster investigations are opened at the request of individuals, worker organizations and community groups who suspect that health conditions that a group of workers have in common were caused by exposure in their shared workplace or industry.

OHCOW approaches these reported clusters at both the group and individual level, pursuing several goals:

• to evaluate common exposures and identify those that should be reduced or eliminated (primary prevention);
• to screen individuals for early signs of disease so that treatment can mitigate harm and workers can avoid compounding exposures (secondary prevention);

• to provide individualized occupational hygiene and medicine assessments to workers and the family members of deceased workers to help them decide whether to file claims for workers’ compensation and to be used as evidence in that process (tertiary prevention).

This work also helps move forward research and raise public awareness of underappreciated workplace hazards and medical conditions, with recent work focusing attention on the neurological and cardiovascular effects of exposure to nanoparticles, the effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals and the work-relatedness of many cases of sarcoidosis and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

In addition to reviewing these issues within individual clusters, internal OHCOW working groups work on issues common to more than one cluster project, including occupational causes of cancer from the very common (prostate cancer) to the extremely rare (cancer of the parotid gland).

OHCOW is currently working on the following Occupational Disease Cluster Investigations: