occupational lung disease

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Occupational lung disease are a result of exposure to dusts, gases, fumes and vapours at work. There are many lung diseases that are associated with industrial exposure to such factors. Included in this classification of disease are:

  • asthma that results from exposure to industrial factors such as complex salts of platinum in platinum mining
  • extrinsic allergic alveolitis, e.g. Farmer's lung
  • lung cancer may be the result of exposure to industrial agents, e.g. polycyclic hydrocarbons in the dye industry
  • exposure to irritants such as chlorine, sulphur dioxide, ammonia, and the oxides of nitrogen can lead to pulmonary oedema and bronchitis
  • pulmonary fibrosis due to exposure to mineral dust, e.g. coal dust, asbestos, tungsten carbide, aluminium.

The amount of lung fibrosis that results from exposure to mineral dusts is very variable. Exposure to particles such as iron, barium and tin lead to dense nodular shadowing on chest X-ray but little, if any, fibrosis. However other industrial mineral dust e.g. silica and asbestos, lead to extensive lung fibrosis.

Coal dust has an intermediate effect in causing lung fibrosis. It's effect is greater than substances such as iron but less than other mineral dusts such as asbestos.

Last reviewed 04/2020