Occupational lung disease

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Occupational lung diseases are a branch of occupational diseases concerned primarily with work related exposures to harmful substances, be they dusts or gases, and the subsequent pulmonary disorders that may occur as a result. Substances known to cause lung disease include coal dust, asbestos, crystalline silica (a form of Silicon dioxide) and barium.

In certain industries, especially those involving grinding or stone-breaking or glass industries, so much dust is produced that the defense mechanism of body cannot fully cope with the situation. Long exposure can give rise to inflammation leading to fibrosis (proliferation of fibrous tissues) and thus causing serious lung damage. Workers in such industries should wear protective masks.

Occupational lung diseases[edit]


Main article: Asbestosis

Asbestosis is a fibrosing interstitial lung disease caused by exposure to forms of the mineral asbestos.[1]


Main article: Occupational asthma

Asthma is a respiratory disease that can begin or worsen due to exposure at work and is characterized by episodic narrowing of the respiratory tract. Occupational asthma has a variety of causes, including sensitization to a specific substance, causing an allergic response; or a reaction to an irritant that is inhaled in the workplace. Exposure to various substances can also worsen pre-existing asthma. People who work in isocyanate manufacturing, who use latex gloves, or who work in an indoor office environment are at higher risk for occupational asthma than the average US worker. Approximately 2 million people in the US have occupational asthma.[1]

Coalworker's pneumoconiosis (black lung)[edit]

Coalworker's pneumoconiosis, also called "black lung disease", is an interstitial lung disease caused by long-term exposure (over 10 years) to coal dust. Symptoms include shortness of breath and lowered pulmonary function. It can be fatal when advanced. Between 1970-1974, prevalence of CWP among US coal miners who had worked over 25 years was 32%; the same group saw a prevalence of 9% in 2005-2006.[1]


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a respiratory disease that can encompass chronic bronchitis and/or emphysema. 15% of the cases of COPD in the United States can be attributed to occupational exposure, including exposure to silica and coal dust. People who work in mining, construction, manufacturing (specifically textiles, rubber, plastic, and leather), building, and utilities are at higher risk for COPD than the average US worker.[1]


Main article: Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelium, part of which is the pleura, the lining of the lungs. Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos.[1]


Main article: Silicosis

Silicosis is a fibrosing interstitial lung disease caused by inhaling fine particles of silica, most commonly in the form of quartz or cristobalite. Short-term exposures of large amounts of silica or long-term (10 years or more) exposure of lower levels of silica can cause silicosis. In 1968, more than 1060 US workers died of silicosis; this number fell to 170 by 2005.[1]

Occupational environmental exposure[edit]



Main article: Asbestos

Asbestos is a mineral which was extensively used in the United States to fireproof buildings and textiles, among other items, in the 1950s-1980s. Workers are frequently exposed to asbestos during demolition and renovation work, which can cause asbestosis and/or mesothelioma. Asbestos exposure can also cause pleural effusion, diffuse pleural fibrosis, pleural plaques, and non-mesothelioma lung cancer. Smoking greatly increases the lung cancer risk of asbestos exposure.[1]



Main article: Beryllium

Beryllium is classified as an IARC Group 1 carcinogen and is used in a wide variety of industries. Those who are manufacturing workers, dental technicians, machinists, jewelers, plumbers, electricians, precious metal reclamation workers, and welders are at risk for beryllium exposure.[1]



Coal dust[edit]

Main article: Coal dust

Exposure to coal dust is the cause of coalworker's pneumoconiosis. It can also exacerbate or cause COPD.[1]

Diesel exhaust[edit]


Main article: Flocking (texture)

Flocking is the technique of adding small pieces of nylon or other material to a backing, usually a textile, to create a contrasting texture. Inhalation of flock can cause flock worker's lung.[1]



Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons[edit]


Main article: Silica

Besides causing silicosis, inhalation of silica can cause or exacerbate COPD. It can also impair lung function in general and cause cancer by oxidation damage. It is classified as a "known human carcinogen" (Group 1 carcinogen) by the IARC. Exposure is common for people working in tunneling, quarrying, construction, sandblasting, roadway repair, mining, and foundry work.[1]

Tobacco smoke[edit]

Infectious exposure[edit]







  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Respiratory Diseases: Occupational Risks". National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. 21 December 2012. Retrieved 23 March 2015.