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Common Lung Problems Encountered In The Workplace

Lung health isn't something the average American spends a lot of time thinking about. However, it might surprise you to learn that lung cancer in non-smokers is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. For non-smokers, the most common causes of the disease include radon gas exposure in the home, second-hand smoke, asbestos exposure, and occupational exposure. It's that last one that gives a lot of workers pause. But lung cancer isn't the only lung problem that can affect workers. Here are a few other lung problems that you can encounter in the workplace if you aren't using proper safety precautions.

Work-related Asthma

Asthma is a disease that affects the lungs when the airways become enflamed and then narrow as a result, making it difficult for the asthma sufferer to breathe. Work-related asthma is caused by workplace factors including 300 known substances that have been linked with the disease in the workplace. In the year 2015, there were 3,396 reported asthma-related deaths in adults. 11-21% of those deaths might be attributed to occupational causes.

Interstitial Lung Disease

Interstitial lung disease is inflammation or scarring in the lungs that is often caused by the long-term exposure to hazardous materials. Inhalation of mineral dusts in the workplace is one common cause. Lung disease-causing substances that workers often encounter are asbestos, silica, coal dust, beryllium, indium, and cobalt. Once the lung scarring associated with interstitial lung disease occurs, it can't be reversed.

Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis

This is another issue that can be caused by the inhalation of hazardous materials in the workplace. Hypersensitivity pneumonitis is an immune inflammatory reaction in the lungs triggered by the inhalation of certain harmful substances, essentially an allergic reaction in the lungs to inhaled dust, fungus, or mold. Symptoms might include shortness of breath, fever, and chills. If it becomes chronic, it can lead to scarring and interstitial lung disease.


Prevention is the key to avoiding these dangerous work-related lung problems. The first step, if you consistently work around harmful substances, is to use an OSHA-approved (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) respirator that is carefully fit to your face. OSHA requires companies to perform qualitative fit testing and training on all respirators to ensure that a proper seal is created on your face to avoid leaks. Additionally, your workplace should be using up-to-date exhaust ventilation systems that pull fumes away and create air exchange. This is also an OSHA requirement.

For more information, reach out to companies like National Fit Test Services