Construction workers not only face dangers from the heavy machinery they operate and the heights they must work from, but also from the air they breathe. Repeated exposure to chemicals and other hazardous substances at construction worksites can cause workers to become ill with occupational lung diseases. Some of these harmful substances include:
- Chemicals in paints
- Chemicals in cleaning products
- Dander from animals and insects
- Dust from wood
- Dust and mold from poorly cleaned and maintained buildings
- Latex gloves
- Chalk dust
Four Serious Occupational Lung Diseases in Construction
While many lung diseases are caused by repeated exposure to toxic substances, sometimes a single severe exposure to a hazardous material can cause damage to a worker’s lungs. Construction workers risk developing these serious lung diseases:
Construction workers who already have asthma could find it exacerbated and others could develop it from the harmful substances they breathe in on the job. Over time, a person’s lungs could become hypersensitive where even a small exposure to the triggering substance could cause an attack. A person can experience shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, and sudden asthma attacks.
Repeated exposure to asbestos can cause mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs and the lower digestive tract, and lung cancer similar to cancer caused by smoking. Both are almost always fatal. In addition, a person could suffer from asbestosis, a serious scarring condition of the lungs that causes shortness of breath, which may be fatal, or pleural thickening where the lining of the lung thickens and swells, causing shortness of breath.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
COPD is a progressive disease where the airways become inflamed and the air sacs lose their elasticity, causing serious shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. A person can also have a chronic cough, wheeze, and produce a high level of mucus, which all contribute to breathing problems. While COPD can be managed with medication, it cannot be cured.
This disease is caused by repeated breathing in tiny particles of silica. These particles can penetrate the lungs and cause inflammation of the lungs and scarring. This is an irreversible lung disease, and people who suffer with it experience shortness of breath, chronic cough, chest pains, and respiratory failure. It can be very disabling and could lead to a person’s early death.
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