Occupational Respiratory Disease -July 2015

Monthly Round Up of Important Ideas and Standards in
Industrial Hygiene and Safety

July 2015

IN THIS ISSUE: Occupational Respiratory Disease

Respiratory illnesses are the most common type of occupational disease, and the National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) lists these illnesses among the ten leading causes of all worker injuries.

“Awareness of the disease potential of the chemicals used in an industry is the vital first step to adequately control the hazard,” explains Gary R. Ticker, CIH, CSP.

In recent years, flavoring chemicals, such as Diacetyl and 2,3-Pentanedione have caused concern. At flavoring and microwave popcorn production plants, workers who routinely work at processes containing these ingredients have developed, Bronchitis Obliterans, a severe lung disease. Other industries with potential exposure to butter flavoring chemicals include snack foods commercial and retail bakeries, retail baking mix production, margarine and other vegetable oil-based cooking products, butter and other dairy products, and candy manufacturer. More recently, coffee process workers who use flavorings have also reported lung disease.

Types of respiratory disease:
Pneumoconioses is a group of interstitial lung diseases typically caused by occupational exposure in which inhalation of certain dusts causes a reaction in the lung tissue. Common forms:
Asbestosis is a progressive disease that results from breathing in microscopic fibers of asbestos which build up over time and can cause scarring, or fibrosis, in the lungs. Construction workers are the most likely to be exposed to asbestos.
Silicosis is caused by exposure to crystalline silica found in mines, foundries, blasting operations, stone, clay, and glass manufacturing. Workers who sand or grind on stone or glass may also be exposed. Dust particles from silica can penetrate the respiratory system and land on alveoli. This causes scar tissue to develop in the lungs and impair the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood
Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis, or Black Lung, is caused by inhaling coal dust and can lead to lung impairment, permanent disability, and death. The lung is damaged, the walls of the air sacs are inflamed, and the lung stiffens from scarring of the tissue between the air sacs. There is no known treatment, but doctors treat the symptoms and complications of the disease.
Others types of pneumoconioses include Berylliosis from exposure to beryllium and Aluminosis from aluminum.
Asthma is a serious form of allergic reaction that can be caused or exacerbated by exposure to agents found in the workplace and is the most common type of occupational lung disease. It can cause recurrent attacks of symptoms such as wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing. In severe cases, these symptoms can be disabling. Occupational asthma is found in grain and cereal workers, woodworkers, printing, detergent manufacturing, soldering, electroplating, and isocyanate exposed workers such as painters.
Mesothelioma is a fatal cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Millions of construction and general industry workers have been exposed to asbestos while on the job. Occupations associated with significantly higher mesothelioma deaths include plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters; mechanical engineers; electricians; and elementary school teachers
Tuberculosis is a recognized risk to patients and healthcare workers in healthcare settings. Transmission is most likely to occur from patients who have unrecognized TB or have received ineffective treatment. Workers in correctional and detention facilities are also at risk when exposed to prisoners with active TB disease. After becoming infected, most people’s immune systems are able to contain the infection, but are not able to eliminate it without help from anti-TB drugs. However, without treatment, infected people can lose control of the infection and develop active, clinical disease. People with active TB have symptoms and can spread the disease. The risk of developing active TB disease is greatest in the first few years after infection, but some risk remains throughout life.
Lung Cancer. Since tobacco smoking is a potent carcinogen, secondary causes of lung cancer are often diminished in perceived importance. However the incidence of lung cancers in non-smokers is significant. The International Agency or Research on Cancer (IARC) has recognized ionizing radiation, Bis(chloromethyl)ether, sulfur mustard, coal tar pitch, soot, and diesel engine exhaust as lung carcinogens. Industries where workers are found to be susceptible to lung cancer include coal gasification, coke production, iron and steel founding, aluminum production, painting and rubber production.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) refers to chronic bronchitis and emphysema. It may be combined presentations of these two diseases and also include occupational asthma and pneumoconiosis. Although often thought of as a disease caused by cigarette smoking, it is well recognized that COPD is also caused by occupational exposures. It has been estimated that 15% of COPD is attributable to occupational exposure. There is an increased risk for COPD in industries including rubber, plastics, and leather manufacturing; utilities; building services; textile manufacturing; and construction.

For more information on this topic and to discuss your company’s safety and industrial hygiene needs call OccuSafe at (214) 662-6005 or contact us at occusafe@occusafeinc.com.

OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety, Inc. provides skills and expertise to recognize, evaluate and control hazards and injuries in the areas of industrial hygiene, occupational safety and health. OccuSafe services companies of all sizes in a range of industries.

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