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    Occupational lung disease

    Dust in the workplace and irreversible occupational lung disease

    Published on August 15th, 2022 | by Sophie West

    According to the HSE, it is estimated that 12,000 lung disease deaths each year are linked to past exposure to work. It is also estimated that 17,000 new cases of breathing or lung problems are caused or made worse because of work. Therefore, it’s important employers must create safe working environments to protect their employees from lung conditions by preventing exposure to harmful substances.

    What is occupational lung disease?

    Work-related lung diseases are a major cause of work-related ill health. These include any respiratory disease that is caused or made worse by exposures at work, such as breathing in hazardous substances like gases or dust. The most common occupational lung diseases include:

    • COPD,
    • Asthma,
    • Lung cancer,
    • Asbestos-related lung disease,
    • Pneumoconiosis,
    • Allergic alveolitis,
    • Silicosis,
    • Infectious diseases.

    All these conditions can be caused by several different materials such as bricks, concrete, wood, and even tiles. Silica dust from, bricks, is said to be one of the leading causes of new work-related lung diseases in the UK.

    What causes occupational lung disease?

    It is caused by long-term exposure to irritants being breathed into the lungs. These can include hazardous, toxic or irritating particles, gases and even temperature conditions. These irritants/particles can have long-lasting effects on the lungs, even after the exposure ends.

    A study around occupational lung disease collected data on breathing / lung problems from 2009 – 2011, with the most common causes below:

    • Airborne materials from spray painting or manufacturing foam products – 13% of cases
    • Dust from flour, grain/cereal, animal feed or hay – 7% of cases
    • Airborne materials while welding, soldering, or cutting/grinding metals – 10% of cases
    • Dust from stone, cement, brick or concrete – 20% of cases
    • General work environment (uncomfortable, hot, cold, damp, wet, dry) – 20% of cases.

    What types of jobs are more at risk?

    It’s a fact that you’ll probably come into contact with one of the above materials at some point, but it’s long-term exposure that causes serious damage over time. However, if you work in manufacturing, construction or a factory environment, the chances of you causing irreversible damage to your lungs are higher than in other industries.

    The HSE are currently running a campaign to spread the awareness of wood dust and how it’s becoming a serious problem for occupational lung disease. You can find out more information on the HSE website here.

    How can Agility help?

    Agility Risk and Compliance offer a range of services to help you mitigate risk within your business. All the services we offer can help you comply not only with legislation, but can also help increase employee satisfaction and general motivation. These services range from health and safety training to risk assessments, such as COSHH, Air Monitoring and occupational health monitoring including spirometry screening which can keep track of the general health of your employees and detect early damage to lung function resulting from the exposure of substances hazardous to health.

    Get in touch with a member of the team on 01527 571 611, email or contact us here.

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