Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
 

Occupational Lung Diseases

Occupational Lung Diseases

What are occupational lung diseases?

Repeated and long-term exposure to certain irritants on the job can lead to an array of lung diseases that may have lasting effects, even after exposure ceases. Certain occupations, because of the nature of their location, work, and environment, are more at risk for occupational lung diseases than others. Contrary to a popular misconception, coal miners are not the only ones at risk for occupational lung diseases. For instance, working in a car garage or textile factory can expose a person to hazardous chemicals, dusts, and fibers that may lead to a lifetime of lung problems if not properly diagnosed and treated.

Consider these statistics from the American Lung Association:

What are the symptoms of an occupational lung disease?

The following are the most common symptoms of lung diseases, regardless of the cause. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

The symptoms of occupational lung diseases may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

How are occupational lung diseases diagnosed?

Occupational lung diseases, like other lung diseases, usually require an initial chest X-ray for preliminary diagnosis. In addition, various tests may be performed to determine the type and severity of the lung disease, including:

What is the difference between inorganic and organic dust?

Particles in the air may cause lung problems. Often called particulate matter (PM), particles can consist of a combination of dust, pollens, molds, dirt, soil, ashes, and soot. Particulate matter in the air comes from many sources, such as factories, smokestacks, exhaust, fires, mining, construction, and agriculture. The finer the particles are, the more damage they can do to the lungs, because they are easily inhaled deep into the lungs, where they are absorbed into the body.

Inorganic refers to any substances that do not contain carbon, excluding certain simple carbon oxides, such as carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. Organic refers to any substances that do contain carbon, excluding simple carbon oxides, sulfides, and metal carbonates.

Examples of inorganic dust diseases

Examples of organic dust diseases

How can occupational lung diseases be prevented?

The best prevention for occupational lung diseases is avoidance of the inhaled substances that cause lung diseases. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends taking other preventive measures, as well, including:

Treatment of occupational lung diseases

Treatment will be determined by your doctor based on:

Consult your doctor for more information regarding the treatment of occupational lung diseases.

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Online Resources of Respiratory Disorders

 

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