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What is occupational lung disease and how can it be reduced?

Workers in Michigan who work in certain environments are at risk for developing occupational lung disease. There are a number of different types, and most of them are preventable. Although affected employees can get workers' compensation for their symptoms, the better solution is to maintain safe working conditions and find appropriate treatments for those who are currently suffering.

According to the Marshfield Clinic Health System, occupational lung diseases are the result of breathing in harmful particles found in the air. The sources for these irritants include:

  • Fires
  • Smokestacks
  • Mining
  • Factories
  • Exhaust
  • Agriculture 
  • Construction

When the particles are breathed into the lungs, the body absorbs them which leads to a number of issues such as chest pain, coughing, tightness of the chest, shortness of breath and abnormal breathing. While most diseases are caused by exposure over a long period of time, a one-time exposure to a severe agent can also have the same effects. Some of the occupational lung diseases include:

  • Asthma
  • Asbestos
  • Silicosis
  • Pneumonitis
  • Black lung
  • Byssinosis

The American Thoracic Society discusses what is being done to treat and prevent these diseases from occurring. A major step is identifying the industries that produce these irritants and regulating them. This includes figuring out ways to minimize exposure such as wearing protective gear, using proper ventilation and increased air concentration monitoring.

Scientists are also working on treatment options. By looking at the pathogenesis of the illnesses and taking into consideration potential genetic components, there is hope that the symptoms and damage of these diseases will be able to be reversed.


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