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.