The official blog of the Lung Institute.
So when your lungs are not functioning properly, as is the case with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), often times than not you battle for the luxury to breathe easily.
You have never smoked a cigarette or a cigar in your life. However, working over the years in a number of different industries, namely leather manufacturing and textiles, you have noticed that your struggle to breathe has increased. Is there a connection between occupation and COPD?
The Connection between Occupation and COPD
In order to understand the connection between occupation and COPD, it is important to understand how chemicals and pollutants can impact the function of the lungs. Breathing in and out toxic substances over the years—day in and day out—can cause inflammation and damage the lungs. From dust to chemicals to fumes, all can prompt the development of COPD. In fact, it is estimated that occupational exposure is the cause in 15 percent of all COPD patients. At the highest risk of developing COPD are individuals who work as coal miners, tunnel workers, concrete-manufacturing employees and non-mining factory workers.
The connection between occupation and COPD was further verified in a landmark study in Switzerland. Published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, the group confirmed that occupational exposure to dust, fumes and gases increased the incidence of COPD to, at the very least, moderate severity.
If You Must Work in a Known COPD-causing Industry
What can a person do who is an industry intimately connected to precipitating COPD? Is there anything that can be done to protect the lungs and minimize exposure? While it is true that over the years, toxic chemicals and pollutants can take their toll on an individual’s lungs with COPD, there are some tips to protect the lungs. Lung function doesn’t need to become hampered as COPD damages vital tissue.
The following are tips for the employee as well as the employer.
For the employee:
- Vacuum your work area: If at all possible, try to vacuum around your work space at least every other day.
- Minimize waste: Bag up any garbage or waste in a container or a bag. When removed from your working environment, the exposure to unknown and invisible substances can be kept to a minimum.
- Wear protective equipment and clothing: Hopefully, your employer provides the proper equipment and clothing to protect you from known and harmful substances that can cause COPD.
For the employer:
- Provide effective ventilation and exhaust: Wherever possible to ensure the safety of employees, work space should be properly ventilated.
- Regular risk assessments: Schedule risk assessments on a consistent basis to verify employees have a safe working environment.
- Health monitoring: Evaluating employees for workplace fitness at start of hire as well as periodic testing during employment. This practice can benefit both the employer and employee. If the environment is one known to be a high risk for developing COPD, testing lung function can help.