Are you at risk for an occupational lung disease?

If you are regularly exposed to toxic substances such as chemical fumes or asbestos at your job in Minnesota, you may expect your employer to provide you with a respirator that meets the standards set by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. However, there may be risk factors in your workplace that you are not aware of. The American Thoracic Society provides an in-depth look at the types of occupational exposures that could cause a particular type of lung disease known as Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis.

HP is an extremely prevalent type of lung disease that involves inhaling allergens and developing inflammation in the lining of the bronchi. It affects 12 to 20 percent of those exposed, and the substances that could cause it are wide ranging, including bacteria, fungi, or plant or animal proteins. For example, you may develop HP from inhaling the following:

  • Contaminated fertilizer
  • Dust from a building’s HVAC system
  • Contaminated wood dust within the walls
  • Dust from a vehicle’s air conditioner
  • Fermenting soy beans
  • Rat fur

Common chemicals that cause HP include toluene diisocyanate and Pauli’s reagent. It is possible to recover from HP by eliminating the allergen source, but you may also develop scarring in the lungs if you continue to breathe in the allergen. A doctor may categorize your HP as acute or subacute if the onset has been fairly recent, or chronic if the condition is recurring or long-term.

This general information about occupational lung disease is educational in nature. It is not intended to replace the advice of a medical or legal professional.

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