The official blog of the Lung Institute.
Occupational Lung Disease in Pittsburgh
The American Lung Association recently released their 2015 State of the Air report listing the cities with the cleanest and most polluted air. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, the city once again ranked among those with the most polluted air in the nation. With the combination of the pollution in the air, the high prevalence of lung disease in the area and the local steel mills and coal mines, many people believe that occupational lung disease in Pittsburgh is on the rise.
What is Occupational Lung Disease?
Simplistically, occupational lung disease is a respiratory condition that develops due to polluted air in the workplace. This can include sand and dust particles, harsh chemicals, small metal particles, and in the case of black lung disease, coal dust. Most people assume that these lung diseases don’t develop unless there is some additional cause like smoking, or at the very least, that it takes years to come about. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. Around 19 percent of COPD cases are attributed to occupational lung disease and 31 percent of overall cases are found in people that never smoked. A history of exposure may be needed to develop a lung disease, but as early as the initial exposure, lung damage can occur.
Lung Disease from the Coal Mine
Pneumoconiosis, the medical term for black lung disease, is a form of interstitial lung disease (ILD). The lungs become visibly blackened by the inhalation of coal dust over long periods of time. The result is heavy scarring in the lungs including: damage to the walls of air sacs responsible for exchanging oxygen for carbon dioxide and an overall stiffening of the lungs, which reduces their ability to expand with air. The result is very poor lung function.
Lung Disease from the Steel Mill
Working at a steel mill doesn’t exclude you from the dangers of occupational lung disease. In fact, there are a large number of pollutants in the air at the common steel mill. The refining, smelting and welding processes all produce dangerous chemicals like Si02, NO2 and SO2. In these cases, chronic bronchitis is the most common form of lung disease developed by steel mill workers. Also common among steel mill workers, silicosis, which is formed from inhaling dust and sand, and siderosis, which occurs when bits of iron get in the lungs.
These diseases are not just debilitating; they are chronic and incurable. Most sufferers are stuck taking a large number of medications and using supplemental oxygen in hopes that they can manage the symptoms of the disease. However, there are now alternative options for treating these diseases that seek to promote healing and slow the progression of the disease. This is done with stem cell therapy. The Lung Institute, coming to Pittsburgh in July 2015, offers such a treatment using the stem cells found in the patient’s own body. If you or a loved one is interested in learning about this treatment option, contact the Lung Institute by calling (800) 729-3065 today.