News Release

August 22, 2005

Contact: Jane Shaskan, 860-679-4777

Higher Incidence of Occupational Illnesses Reported for 2003

Repetitive Motion Causes Most Problems

FARMINGTON, CONN. – Connecticut’s workers had a 4 percent increase of occupational diseases in 2003, according to a recent report prepared by occupational and environmental expert Tim Morse, Ph.D., at the UConn Health Center for the Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Commission.

The increase is slightly higher than national figures.

There were 4,500 occupation-related illnesses reported, and more than half were caused by long-term repetitive motion, most resulting in tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). CTS resulted in an average of 34 lost work days, as compared to the average of seven days for all other cases, and largely affected computer, clerical, and assembly workers, and nurses, the report stated.

Reports of lung diseases were down by 50 percent and elevated blood lead levels were also down by 16 percent from 2002.

Among other diseases reported were heart and stress-related illnesses, skin disorders, infections and poisonings.

The manufacturing industry had the highest number of cases overall, followed by the service providers in education and health. State government and municipalities had the highest percentage of cases per number of employees.

According to Morse, occupational illnesses are hard to track. “Physician diagnosis can be difficult because many worker problems occur over time, and that can make identifying those problems tricky. They’re not obvious, like an immediate injury on the job,” he said. “Also, employees can be reluctant to report injuries or illnesses to their employers because of concerns of how they may respond,” Morse said. “Sometimes employees just don’t want to deal with the paperwork and let things go.”

“Tracking occupational diseases helps identify problems that are preventable,” said Morse. “But, occupational illnesses have to be reported before they can be understood and acted upon.”

Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Commission Chairman John Mastropietro emphasized the need to reduce occupational illness. “No matter what strides are made to limit the number of injuries that occur and the associated costs to both business and injured workers, it can never be enough,” he said. “We must continue to devote ourselves to the preventive measures which will keep the injuries from occurring in the first place.”

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 trace and prevent occupational disease. The report includes a “Who’s Who” of contact information for agencies and programs in occupational health and safety in Connecticut, as well as a list of the most useful websites nationally.

A free copy of the “Occupational Disease in Connecticut: 2005” report, which covers data for 2003, is available at, or call the Workers’ Compensation Commission at 860-493-1500 or Morse at 860-679-4720.

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