Occupational lung diseases

Occupational or work related lung diseases are diseases that arise or are exacerbated by the effects of materials in the patient’s workplace.

It is impossible to assess the degree of influence of these diseases due to lack of information. For example, it is believed that occupational diseases are more common in old age, in people who no longer work when diseases are caused by previous work.



Asthma is the most common occupational lung disease. It is estimated that one of the seven severe cases of asthma is associated with exposure to harmful production factors, which also accounts for approximately 15% of all cases of asthma in adults.

The number of materials whose effects cause asthma is growing:

  • Squirrelsanimals , plants and seafood
  • Artificial proteins used in fabrics, detergents and glue
  • Metalsused on production
  • Synthetic chemicals used in spray paints, foams and adhesives

The existing symptoms of asthma may also worsen under the influence of production factors, in which case the disease is called “asthma, exacerbated by working conditions”. Given the important role of production factors in the development and worsening of asthma, it is necessary to take into account the state of the workplace when developing preventive measures against asthma.

Acute Inhalation Damage

Occur as a result of individual cases when exposed to strong materials, such as chemical leaks, fire, gas explosions or when exposed to large amounts of dust. The main cause of death in people who have suffered burns is dysfunction of the lungs. These types of influences can cause asthma and other rare diseases, such as foundry fever and organic dust syndrome.

Risk groups mainly include agricultural workers, firefighters and emergency personnel. According to the results of a study conducted in Sweden and Finland, it became known that one in 10 farmers experienced an acute inhalation injury as a result of the harmful effects of dust.

Infection in the workplace

These infectious diseases develop as a result of the action of bacteria. These include:

  • Tuberculosisin the group at highest risk fall health professionals serving patients with this disease
  • Legionellosis: This disease is usually transmitted through ventilation systems and, as a rule, affects hotel and entertainment center staff, cruise ship personnel, andother crowded and limited places, such as schools.
  • Q-rickettsiosis: This disease is caused by bacteria that infect farm animals, rodents, cats or dogs, so agricultural workers are at risk

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

In most cases, COPD is caused by smoking, however, the results of the study suggest that in 15% – 20% of cases COPD is at least partially caused by exposure to certain materials or substances in the workplace.

This includes exposure to mineral fillers, irritant gases or vapors in the air. The accumulation of these materials can lead to the development of chronic cough, chronic bronchitis and COPD. Miners and agricultural workers are at the highest risk of developing this disease.

In Europe in 2000, more than 39,000 deaths were reported as a result of industrial dust and fumes.

Interstitial disease lungs

Some rare interstitial lung diseases are definitely associated with exposure to occupational factors. These include:

Pneumoconiosis E This disease develops as a result of exposure to quartz dust, asbestos, or coal dust. Regulation of dust in the workplace and a ban on the use of asbestos in construction work reduce the rates of disease that are commonly observed in people exposed to these substances many years ago. A total of 7,200 cases of pneumoconiosis due to exposure to asbestos, quartz and coal dust were reported in Europe in 2000.

Lung disease caused by exposure to metals: Lung disease can be caused by exposure to metals such as beryllium, used in modern technologies (e.g., in the aerospace industry) or cobalt used in the alloys and the batteries T hese disease is often confused with other diseases, e.g., sarcoidosis , further work is needed to qualify these diseases as professional ones.

Exogenous allergic alveolitis The cause of this disease is an allergic reaction to a substance acting in the workplace that affects the alveoli (small alveolar sacs in the lungs). There is a wide range of causes that cause an allergic reaction: the action of organic dust, wood processing, working with birds and bird food, or staying in vegetable stores. The annual prevalence in 1980 in Sweden is 2-6 cases per 1,000 farmers.

Other interstitial lung diseases: Rare diseases develop as part of an accidental outbreak of the epidemic due to exposure to occupational factors. One example is the epidemic of severe pneumonia in textile workers, called the “ Ardistil syndrome ”, which was caused by the use of aerosol dyes.These rare flashes are a reminder that workers should not be exposed to aerosol constituents until they are tested and found to be safe.

Another important issue is the use of nanomaterials for various new technologies. Although the fact of the development of lung diseases as a result of exposure to nanomaterials has not yet been confirmed by the results of a comprehensive study, in some animal studies, the question was raised about the harmful effects that they can have on people.

Lungs’ cancer

There are some carcinogenic production factors that include exposure to asbestos fibers, nickel compounds, arsenic, exhaust gases and radon. The reaction of these substances with cigarette smoke can also have harmful effects. Passive smoking in the presence of smoking colleagues is also classified as a harmful production factor. It is believed that 15% of lung cancer cases in men and 5% of women have this disease was caused by harmful production factors .D TED Vocational lung cancer are often absent, since many patients with lung cancer are currently smokers or were they in the past.

Pleural diseases (including mesothelioma)

The disease of the pleura is almost entirely due to the harmful effects of asbestos. Although the use of asbestos is now prohibited, people exposed to it at a young age are now living with this disease in old age.

Pleural diseases can be benign, that is, with a low probability of spread. It is more common in people exposed to minor asbestos exposure.

Malignant forms of the disease include mesothelioma , which can develop 30 or more years after exposure to asbestos, and is projected to kill 250,000 people in the period from 1995 to 2029.   In accordance with these predictions, one in 150 people born between 1945 and 2050 will die as a result of this disease, for which no effective treatment has yet been found.


In some countries, losses due to occupational lung diseases are not recorded, so it is difficult for a specialist to give an accurate estimate of losses in Europe. Alternatively, the data are collected in accordance with the evaluation of the results obtained by the voluntary information system on occupational lung diseases in international databases.

  • In Europe, 2000 was registered  more than 39,000 deaths due to harmful industrial dust and fumes.
  • Up to 15% of all asthma cases are associated with exposure to occupational factors.
  • 15% – 20% of cases of COPDare related to production factors.
  • Treatment of occupational asthma requires high costs, but as a rule they are covered by the state or individuals, and not by the employer.
  • Thousands of miners in different European countries developed pneumoconiosis.
  • It is believed that the impact of harmful production factors is associated with 17% of all cases of asthma in adults.
  • According to the results of a study conducted in Sweden and Finland, it became known that every tenth farmer experienced an acute inhalation injury as a result of the harmful effects of dust.
  • It is estimated that in 15% of cases of lung cancer in men and in 5% of cases in women, this disease was due to harmful production factors.

Occupational asthma leads to serious social and economic consequences, even in those countries that have developed adequate provisions for the payment of compensation to workers with occupational diseases.

In some countries, health professionals have developed systems for the voluntary provision of information on occupational lung diseases. The most well-known system is the SWORD system (Surveillance of Occupational and Work-Related Respiratory Diseases), developed in the UK in 1989. It helps professionals assess the outcome of the disease and determine priorities in developing preventive measures.

Current needs

  • It is necessary to try to improve the methods of diagnosing diseases caused by production factors.
  • It is necessary to develop uniform standards for all European countries for permissible concentrations of substances and make changes in them to reduce the impact of harmful production factors at the workplace.
  • It is necessary to develop and adopt plans in the event of a disaster in order to eliminate the harm caused by the harmful effects in an accident.
  • It is necessary to vaccinate pneumococcus workers who are at high risk of developing infectious pneumonia.
  • Employers should be informed about the potential cost of exposure to occupational factors that cause asthma, for motivation to take preventive measures.
  • Health authorities and trade unions should set realistic goals for reducing the incidence of lung disease resulting from the inhalation of silicate dust or work in mines.
  • It is necessary to make more efforts to diagnose, register and prevent diseases arising from exposure to materials from heavy and soft materials.
  • Legislature should analyze the use ofnanomaterials and their effects on health.
  • It is necessary to continue taking measures to identify and reduce the impact of occupational carcinogenic factors in Europe.

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