There are several factors in a work environment that can lead to the development of an occupational lung disease. After long-term or repetitive exposure to toxins on the job, there is an increased likelihood workers can develop occupational lung disease. Some industries may be more at risk for having these conditions and their employees need to have safeguards in place to protect the lungs of workers at all times.
Because much of the exposure to toxins occurs by breathing in hazardous substances or chemical irritants, it is important to recognize the importance of face masks or breathing apparatus in toxic environments. One of the more common occupational lung diseases affecting workers stems from exposure to asbestos. Construction workers, demolition crews, and manufacturing workers are at risk of being exposed to asbestos due to the nature of their work. Asbestos is a mineral fiber used in insulation and the fibers have been shown to cause damage to lung tissue when inhaled.
There are other lung conditions that can develop due to exposure to materials on the job. Dust, mold, soot, and chemicals may be constantly present in some workplace environments. Employees not properly protected from these potential hazards will be frequently exposed to these materials, breathing them into their lungs if facemasks are not being utilized.
Occupational lung diseases will require medical intervention and a prompt diagnosis; otherwise they may result in respiratory distress or failure. An array of tests can be conducted to determine the condition including pulmonary function tests and biopsies of lung tissue. A referral to a lung specialist will be likely for ongoing testing and treatment.
Some common symptoms that can signal lung conditions and disease may include but is not limited to shortness of breath, chronic coughing, tightness or pain in the chest, and abnormal breathing. Any symptom out of the ordinary should be presented to a doctor as soon as possible from a prompt diagnosis.