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Occupational inhalative exposures contribute to a significant proportion of obstructive airway diseases (OAD), namely chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma.The number of occupational OAD in the German industrial sector for the year 2003 are presented. Other analyses of surveillance data were retrieved from Medline.Most confirmed reports of OAD are cases of sensitizer induced occupational asthma (625 confirmed cases) followed by COPD in coal miners (414 cases), irritant induced occupational asthma (156 cases), and isocyanate asthma (54 cases). Main causes of occupational asthma in Germany comprise flour/flour constituents (35.9%), food/ feed dust (9.0%), and isocyanates (6.5%). Flour and grain dust is a frequent cause of occupational asthma in most European countries and South Africa. Isocyanates are still a problem worldwide.Although wide differences in the estimated incidences between countries exist due to deficits in the coverage of occupational OAD, the high numbers necessitate improvement of preventive measures.