News Release

August 31, 2004

Contact: Jane Shaskan, 860-679-4777

Musculoskeletal Diseases Account for Increase in Rate of Occupational Illnesses in Connecticut

Rate of Infectious and Skin Diseases Declines

FARMINGTON – Occupational illnesses in Connecticut increased by 5 percent in 2002, according to a recent annual report prepared for the Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Commission by occupational/environmental expert Tim Morse, Ph.D., at the University of Connecticut Health Center.

“Occupational diseases in Connecticut are gradually rising – largely driven by the increase in musculoskeletal illnesses,” said Dr. Morse. “We are glad, however, to see the incidence of infectious and skin diseases steadily declining during the past two years.”

According to the report, the manufacturing sector and state government had the highest rates of occupational diseases, and manufacturing had the highest number of cases. Musculoskeletal disorders, such as tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome, were by far the most commonly reported occupational illnesses accounting for 1,978 cases in 2002 and reflecting a 22 percent increase over 2001 with 1,619 cases. The most common causes of the disorder were repetitive work, computer work, manual and vibrating tool use, and lifting.

Other reported illnesses that showed an increase included:

  • 280 heart and stress related illnesses as compared with 171 cases in 2001;
  • 226 “other illnesses,” such as allergic conditions and hearing loss, as compared with 119 cases in 2001.

There was a significant decline in infectious diseases, down to 291 from 516 in 2001. Other illnesses that showed a decline included:

  • 409 lung related and poison related cases, down from 463 in 2001;
  • 196 skin disorders as compared with 268 in 2001.

“Occupational illnesses can be difficult to identify because they occur over time, as opposed to a sudden injury, such as a fall from a scaffold,” said Dr. Morse. “And unfortunately, many workers don’t report cases to their employers, but reporting is vital, because it helps track and identify problems that are preventable,” he said. “Occupational illnesses are a public health problem. They can be prevented, just like infectious diseases, but not unless they’re reported,” he said.

“We see firsthand the pain and disability suffered by injured workers, and the extensive costs to businesses of preventable conditions,” said John Mastropietro, Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Commission chairman. “The commission works diligently to reduce occupational illnesses, and injuries through health and safety committees and worker education. The drop in infectious and skin illnesses is a welcome sign that our efforts have shown success,” he said. “We are concerned, however, about the rise in musculoskeletal disorders, which often can take years to develop. It’s an area in which we must continue to aggressively work to educate employers and employees,” he said.

The report is part of the Occupational Disease Surveillance System, a cooperative effort between the Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Commission, the Connecticut Department of Public Health, the Connecticut Labor Department, the academic occupational health clinics at the University of Connecticut Health Center and Yale University, and other state occupational health clinics. The system is designed to track and prevent occupational disease.

For a copy of the report, titled Occupational Disease in Connecticut 2004 (figures from 2002), call the Workers’ Compensation Commission at 860-493-1500 or Dr. Morse at 860-679-4720, or from the web at

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