Occupational lung diseases

Occupational lung diseases

  • Occupational lung diseases are caused by harmful particles, mists, vapors or gases that are inhaled, usually while a person works.
  • If the lung disease is due to inhaled particles, the term pneumoconiosis is often used.
  • Where in the airways or lungs an inhaled substance ends up and what type of lung disease develops depend on the size and kind of particle inhaled.
  • Large particles may get trapped in the nose or large airways, but very small ones may reach the lungs. There, some particles may be dissolved and may be absorbed in the blood stream.
  • Most solid particles that do not dissolve are removed by body’s defenses.
  • The body has several many of getting rid of inhaled particles.
  • In the airways, an accumulation of secretions (mucus) coats particles so that they can be coughed up more easily. Additionally, tiny cells lining the airways (cilia) are able to brush inhaled particles up-ward, out of the lungs.
  • In the small air sacs of the lungs (alveoli), special scavenger cells (macrophages) engulf most particles and render them harmless.
  • Many different kinds of particles can harm the lungs.
  • Some are organic, meaning that they are made up of materials containing carbon and are parts of building blocks of the living organisms (such as grain dusts, cotton dust or animal dander).
  • Some are inorganic meaning that they are usually salts of metals (such as asbestos).
  • Different types of particles produce different types of reactions in the body.
  • Some particles, for example – animal dander, can cause allergic reactions such as hay fever like symptoms or a type of asthma.
  • Other particles cause harm not by triggering allergic reactions but by being toxic to the cells of the airways and air sacs in the lungs.
  • Some particles such as quartz dust and asbestos may cause chronic irritation that can lead to scarring of the lung tissue.
  • Certain toxic particles such as asbestos can cause lung cancer, especially in smokers, or cancer of the lining of the chest and lung (mesothelioma) regardless of the person’s smoking history.
  • Some of these occupational lung diseases are: silicosis, black lung, asbestosis, beryllium disease, flock worker’s lung, occupational asthma, byssinosis and benign pneumoconiosis.

People at risk of occupational lung diseases


  • Lead, copper, silver and gold miners.
  • Certain coal miners like roof bolters.
  • Foundry workers
  • Potters
  • Sandstone or granite cutters
  • Tunnel workers
  • Workers who make abrasive soaps
  • Sandblasters
  • Tombstone makers

Black lung

  • Coal workers


  • Workers who mine, mill or manufacture asbestos
  • Construction workers who install or remove materials containing asbestos.
  • Shipyard workers

Beryllium disease

  • Aerospace workers
  • Metallurgical workers

Flock workers lung

  • Synthetic fiber flocking workers

Benign pneumoconiosis

  • Welders
  • Iron miners
  • Barium workers
  • Tin workers

Occupational asthma

  • People who work with grains, western red cedar wood, castor beans, isocyanates, dyes, antibiotics, epoxy resins, tea, and enzymes used in manufacturing detergent, malt, leather goods, latex, jewelry, abrasives and paints used in automobile body repairs, animals, shellfish, irritating gases, vapors and mists.


  • Cotton, hemp, jute and flax workers

Silo filler’s disease

  • Farmers

Hypersensitivity pneumonitis

  • Office workers because of air-conditioning systems contaminated by certain bacteria and fungi.
  • Swimming pool/spa workers because of contaminated sprays.
  • Farmers, mushroom workers, bird keepers, workers exposed to isocyanates.

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By |2018-12-29T05:01:41+00:00September 19th, 2017|Disease/pathological condition|Comments Off on Occupational lung diseases

About the Author:

B. Pharm (K.L.E. society's S.V.V. Patil College of Pharmacy, Bengaluru) M. Pharm (Maharishi Arvind Institute of Pharmacy, Jaipur)


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