Exposure to harmful substances on the job can cause severe lung disease. According to the American Lung Association, workers in private industry suffer nearly 15,000 cases of occupational lung disease every year, while government employees face an average of 7,800 additional cases. A Chicago personal injury attorney is aware that the three most common occupational lung diseases in the U.S. are occupational asthma, mesothelioma, and silicosis.
- Occupational asthma
Occupational asthma is a serious respiratory problem that is caused or aggravated by exposure to toxins in the workplace. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health estimates that approximately one out of every five new cases of asthma in the U.S. each year is related to harmful conditions at work.
Many jobs expose employees to high-risk asthma triggers every day, as every Chicago personal injury attorney knows. Cleaning materials, air pollutants, chemical dust and organic substances can all precipitate asthma in otherwise healthy workers.
Mesothelioma is one of the most notorious and deadly occupational illnesses. It is a lethal type of cancer linked to asbestos exposure. American companies no longer use asbestos in new constructions, but these fibers are present in hundreds of thousands of old buildings, putting repair crews and maintenance staff in great danger. Professions with a high risk of work-related mesothelioma include all of the following:
- Pipefitters and plumbers
- Mechanical engineers
- Teachers and school employees
According to the ALA, 18,068 people died of job-related mesothelioma during the period from 1999 to 2005. This disease is particularly insidious because it often takes more than 30 years to appear after the worker is exposed to asbestos. Many retired workers find themselves disabled or dying after having encountered asbestos on the job in their youth.
Silicosis is a serious disease that affects people who work in mines, blasting operations, stonework, foundry work and glass manufacturing. When the body is exposed to silica dust, tiny particles land on the air sacs inside the lungs. These particles damage the lungs, creating areas of scar tissue. The scar tissue reduces the oxygen supply to the blood. Silicosis can lead to disturbing and disabling symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, respiratory distress and loss of appetite. It can also increase a worker’s risk of respiratory diseases such as tuberculosis.
People who are living with a work-related respiratory disease may be entitled to workers’ compensation in Illinois. Disabled employees should consider meeting with a Chicago personal injury attorney.