Lung injuries at work can arise in a variety of different circumstances. The best known work-related lung injury is mesothelioma, but that’s just one of the many conditions workers can develop during their careers.
There are special compensation funds available to victims of asbestos who develop mesothelioma, but other work-related lung injuries must be compensated through the workers’ compensation system. Insurance companies may not make this easy, though, and may claim that your workplace lung injury had nothing to do with work.
If your lung injury was caused by your job or made a pre-existing condition worse, you should receive all the workers’ compensation benefits you’re entitled to, such as reimbursement for weekly compensation, medical bills, vocational rehabilitation, and compensation for permanent injury, if applicable.
What Causes Workplace Lung Injuries?
If the workspace is not properly ventilated and workers don’t wear the proper protective gear, people can get hurt.
Workplace lung injuries are caused by inhaling harmful mineral dusts such as asbestos and coal, metal fumes, organic dusts such as wood, diesel exhaust fumes, and chemical gases or vapors, according to the American Thoracic Society.
Some workplace lung injuries develop quickly, such as if a worker was exposed to a noxious chemical that caused a burn in their airway and lungs. The majority of lung injuries, however, occur slowly over time and present themselves long after a worker’s initial exposure, such as with mesothelioma.
Workers that are more likely to come in contact with potentially dangerous chemicals and materials include:
- Construction workers
- Flavorings workers and those who work in popcorn plants
- Loading dock employees exposed to high levels of diesel fumes
- Power plant workers
- Railroad workers
- Shipyard workers
- Textile workers
- Workers who produce cement, brick, stone, and clay products
- Workers in the glass, paint manufacturing, or plastics industry
Common Workplace Lung Injuries
Workers in many industries are at risk of sustaining a lung injury. Here are some of the most common workplace lung injuries, according to the American Thoracic Society.
Asthma can be caused or worsened in those already living with it by conditions in the workplace. Work-related asthma can be caused by a variety of exposures, with symptoms commonly presenting at work but improving when not on the job. Common symptoms associated with work-related asthma include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and/or shortness of breath, according to the American Thoracic Society.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): COPD is a condition most common among heavy cigarette smokers, but it can also develop in workers exposed to certain dusts and hazardous chemicals at work. If left untreated, COPD can cause emphysema and chronic bronchitis, two conditions that affect the bronchial tubes in the lung, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Workers that inhale certain molds, bacteria, bird proteins, or select chemicals can develop hypersensitivity pneumonitis. Symptoms associated with this inflammatory reaction include fever, chills, and shortness of breath. Over time, hypersensitivity pneumonitis can cause scarring and interstitial lung disease like those mentioned above, according to the American Thoracic Society.
Interstitial or fibrotic lung diseases:
Workers who inhale mineral dusts such as silica, asbestos, coal dust, among other materials can develop lung inflammation and scarring that cause conditions such as asbestosis, silicosis, or coal workers pneumoconiosis, also known as black lung, according to the American Thoracic Society. These conditions often take years or decades to develop, and the damage is irreversible, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Certain workplace materials and chemicals can cause lung cancer in workers. Tobacco is the leading cause of lung cancer, according to the American Thoracic Society, and it could complicate a lung injury workers’ compensation claim. Inhaling asbestos, silica, and diesel exhaust fumes can cause lung cancer in smoking and non-smoking workers, and workers should still receive workers’ compensation benefits.
Can Lung Injuries Be Treated?
If caught early enough, some lung injuries can be effectively treated with a combination of medication, surgery, and other therapies. For example, many sufferers of COPD must carry an oxygen tank around with them in order to breathe comfortably while doing normal household chores, and those suffering from cancer may require chemotherapy and surgery.
Your treatment options will ultimately depend on your specific work related lung injury and how far your condition progressed before it was diagnosed. Your doctor and the other healthcare professionals helping you will know the best treatment plan for your condition.
Let An Experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorney Help With Your Workplace Lung Injury Claim
Regardless of your treatment plan, medical care is expensive and you shouldn’t have to pay for it when your job caused your injury.
The insurance company may undervalue or flat out deny your claim, though. That’s when you’ll want an experienced workers’ compensation attorney on your side to fight for all your benefits.
Contact Morgan & Morgan today for a free consultation to find out if our workers’ compensation attorneys can help you recover the full value of your workplace lung injury claim.