What Are Common Occupational Lung Diseases?

Occupational hazards can cause these health problems by irritating or damaging the lungs over time, and companies may be compelled to conduct regular lung function testing on their employees to determine if any damage has been caused.

Workers with any one of these conditions face a variety of potential difficulties including:

Breathing disorders that could be life-threatening if left untreated.
Reduced ability to work or perform strenuous activities.
Economic hardship from loss of wages and increased medical expenses.
Poor quality of life and reduced physical and mental functionality.

There are many ways to prevent these lung diseases from occurring in the workplace. Companies should be aware that using proper ventilation, providing regular respiratory health screenings and creating a healthy work environment with good air quality can help promote better worker health. Preventative measures like wearing protective equipment when necessary is also an important factor in preventing lung disease due to occupational hazards while working at certain jobs for long hours or during times of high exposure. Workers who experience breathing trouble or any other signs related to their lungs should contact their doctor immediately rather than trying self-treatment methods, which could make it worse without professional assistance.

Here are some of the most commonly found occupational lung diseases.


COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which is a wide range of respiratory conditions that affect the lungs. COPD can be caused by long-term exposure to harmful fumes from tobacco smoke, second hand smoke or even inhaling any type of chemicals for an extended period of time at work. Another example would be those who work in certain types of heavy industry such as mining with high levels of dust and exhaust gases. People who have been exposed to these hazardous materials over a long duration are more likely to develop COPD symptoms later on.

The most common treatment options include breathing machines, medications used for treating asthma and bronchitis, along with quitting smoking. Not all cases require surgery but it depends on how severe the condition has become.


Asthma is a very common respiratory disease that can be caused by breathing in hazardous fumes and dusts. It is a chronic disorder where the airways become inflamed and narrow, making it difficult to breath. There is no absolute cure for asthma, however it can be controlled by avoiding the allergens as well as taking medications. Those who have asthma should also avoid physical activities like sports and should not participate in strenuous jobs where breathing is hard.

Asthma can be prevented by wearing a mask to filter out dusts and fumes while working outdoors or indoors. It would also help if you must smoke, only do so outside of work hours, since cigarette smoke contains many harmful chemicals that could trigger an attack for those already suffering from this disease. Anyone experiencing symptoms such as tightness within their chest, shortness of breath and other similar symptoms should get themselves checked by a doctor as soon as possible.


Silicosis is a lung disease that is contracted by inhaling silica dust. Silicosis can also be referred to as pneumoconiosis and has no cure, but the condition could go away on its own after a few months or it could become chronic depending if one keeps breathing in silica particles.

This lung disease is common amongst sandblasters, stone masons and foundry workers due to exposure to sandstone, granite and other similar minerals that release fine crystalline particles when worked upon. Those who work at quarries are usually exposed to much of this harmful mineral material since rocks and stones break into small pieces during quarrying, making it hard for humans to avoid breathing in these irritating materials which then lead to injury within one’s lungs.

Black lung disease

Black lung disease is commonly found among those who work in areas of coal mining, where workers are exposed to coal dust which then enters their lungs. Sometimes when these tiny particles of this harmful mineral enter our bodies through inhalation or even ingestion (in the case of small children), they get accumulated inside one’s respiratory system and cause irritation within them leading to lung injuries with time.

Coal worker’s pneumoconiosis

Coal Worker’s pneumoconiosis is similar to silicosis, but is caused by exposure to coal dust. This specific disease is also known as black lung, because the lungs are actually black with deposits of carbon that have accumulated in them.


This disease of the lungs is caused by breathing in asbestos fibres. The long-term effects of this disease include shortness of breath, coughing and chest pains.


Mesothelioma is a type of cancer in the lungs. It is caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos. This lung cancer cannot be prevented, but there are ways of slowing down the progression, if it has been diagnosed in time.


Trichloroethylene is a disease of the lungs caused by inhaling this same chemical which is an industrial solvent. The effects of this disease include breathing problems, heart palpitations and tremors.


This disease is caused by exposure to certain chemicals that may include carbon disulphide, trichloroethylene and benzene. The symptoms of polycythaemia are headaches, dizziness, confusion and high blood pressure.


Sarcoidosis is another common occupational lung disease caused by exposure to certain chemicals that include petroleum solvents, welding fumes and fibreglass. Symptoms of this disease are breathing difficulties, coughing up blood and fever.

Those with industrial lung diseases can be treated if they get diagnosed in time by avoiding the source of their symptoms or by taking medicine for it. The most aspect here is for the employer, to provide the workers with high-quality gear that will help prevent inhalation of hazardous substances. In addition, they should also conduct regular lung function testing on all workers in order to identify those at risk as well as provide them with the right treatment and medications.

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