Occupational lung diseases are the number one cause of occupation-associated illnesses in the United States. These diseases are work-related lung conditions that have been caused or worsened by the materials an individual is exposed to within the workplace. Occupational lung diseases include a broad range of illnesses, including occupational asthma, bronchiolitis obliterates, inhalation injury, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung fibrosis, pneumoconiosis, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, mesothelioma, and lung cancer.
According to ABC News, today’s workforce is experiencing the biggest lung disease crisis since asbestos.
Last month, the Queensland Government issued an urgent warning after 22 silicosis claims were reported, including for six individuals who were diagnosed as terminally ill.
Brisbane-based senior occupational physical Dr. Graeme Edwards has been involved in the health screening of the workforce and predicts that there will be a major spike in illness cases, stating that nearly one in three workers in Queensland currently have symptoms of silicosis.
“I’m expecting another 300 cases in Queensland by December alone, “Dr. Edwards said. “It’s horrendous, it’s alarming. 50% of those are going to have progressive massive fibrosis (severe lung scarring).”
The Australian Federal Government is working alongside Safe Work Australia to progress initiatives to address exposure respirable crystalline silica in the workplace.
Here are some of the most common causes of occupational lung diseases:
- Moldy hay
- Moldy pressed sugarcane (bagasse)
- Moldy compost
- Contaminated maple logs, wood dust, and wood pulp
- Cheese casings
- Wood trimmings
- Dried grasses and leaves
- Tea plants
- HVAC systems
- Fermenting soybeans
- Animal and insect products
- Toluene diisocyanate
- Coffee beans
- Pauli’s reagent
- Heated epoxy resin
The silica dust is created when stonemasons work with engineered stone for household bench tops. These engineered stone materials can contain silica levels of up to 90%, which is significantly higher than marble or granite. Workers without adequate respiratory protection are at risk of inhaling the silica dust particles, which can lead to disability, shortness of breath, and death.