Occupational Respiratory Disease

Occupational respiratory disease a type of lung condition, one can get at work due to inhalation of certain kind of toxins which are present in the air. One can develop this kind of disease if he/she is exposed to the toxins for a longer duration. Workplaces like coal mines and factories are some of the areas with high amounts of toxins. The toxins include asbestos and silica dust, as well as smoke, fumes, gases, and other particles.

These particles are present in the air that come from various sources and cause lung problems. Workplaces, where exposure to such toxins can be observed, are factories, smokestacks, exhaust, fires, mining, construction, and agriculture. The damage caused by the toxin particles is inversely related to the size of the particle. The smaller the particles are, the more damage they can do to the lungs. Smaller particles are easily inhaled deep into the lungs. Bigger particles are coughed out in most cases but the smaller ones are absorbed into the body instead of being coughed out.

Common symptoms of Occupational respiratory disease

The symptoms of the occupational respiratory disease vary from person to person. Different types of symptoms depend on a different kind of work setting, type of disease, and health state of a person. 

Some of the symptoms are:

  1. Dry, scratchy, or sore throat
  2. Running nose
  3. Coughing
  4. Fever
  5. Tightness of chest
  6. Chest pain
  7. Muscle or body aches
  8. Breathing problems, such as shortness of breath or abnormal breathing
  9. Chest pain

The symptoms of occupational respiratory disease may appear like other health conditions or problems such as cold, flu, or allergies. Habits like smoking can worsen these symptoms.

How occupational respiratory disease is caused?

There are workplaces where there is exposure to dust particles from wood, cotton, coal, asbestos, silica, and talc. Substances like Pesticides, drug or enzyme powders, and fiberglass also can hurt one’s lungs. Factories in which certain food items are manufactured like cereal grains, coffee particles, and food flavourings can cause respiratory ailments.

Exposure to smoke for a longer duration can be very harmful. Smoke contains a mixture of particles, gases, and vapours.

Places, where welding, smelting, furnace work, pottery, manufacturing of plastics, and rubber operations take place, give rise to lots of fumes. Such fumes from metals that are heated and cooled quickly can cause damage to the lungs. Processes like welding, brazing, smelting, oven drying, and furnace work also release certain gases such as formaldehyde, ammonia, chlorine, sulphur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides.

Vapours from chemicals used in factories or industries are given off by all. Vapours usually irritate your nose and throat before they affect the lungs.

Mists or sprays from paints, lacquers (such as varnish), hair spray, pesticides, cleaning products, acids, oils, and solvents (such as turpentine).


Occupational respiratory disease like other lung diseases requires a chest X-ray for diagnosis. Other tests that may be needed to figure out the type and severity of the lung disease include bronchoscopy, CT- scan, biopsy, or surgery.


Prevention is always better than cure. The best to prevent occupational lung diseases is to avoid the inhalation of substances that causes lung diseases. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends the following preventive measures:

1. Smoking must be avoided. Smoking can increase the risk of occupational lung disease.

2. One needs to wear proper protective devices, such as facial masks, when around airborne irritants and dust.

3. Evaluate lung function with spirometry (an evaluation of lung function performed in the doctor’s office) as often as recommended by your doctor to familiarize yourself with your lung function.

4. Educate workers concerning the risks of lung disease.

5. Hire a specially-trained occupational health expert to investigate your work environment for risks for occupational lung diseases on regular basis.