You are welcome to today’s discussion. This is a continuation of the last article on don’t let your work kill you.
Occupational lung diseases are a broad group of diseases caused by inhaling organic dusts, chemicals, proteins, and other toxic elements in the environment especially at work place. it is commonly called ‘Pneumoconiosis’, which is associated with inhalation of chemical dusts or fumes such as silica, asbestos, sawdust, coal etc. The degree of affectation is directly related to how long one is exposed to the toxic dusts and the dose or quantity of the dusts inhaled.
How toxic dust cause lung disease. The diseases caused by toxic dusts are many and depend on the duration and extent of exposure. There are acute, short term diseases as well as chronic, long term diseases.
When you inhale toxic dust, the dust particle gets absorb into the airway mucosa, the lining of the airway, and irritate the airway. The body then mount up an inflammatory process against the toxic particles resulting in airway secretion called edema and airway constriction. As time goes on with constant exposure, the reactive airway become hypersensitive to such toxic dust causing what is called occupational asthma and hypersensitivity pneumonitis and or occupational rhinitis. Repeated exposure with aggressive body immune reactions cause lung injury, scaring and fibrosis also known as granuloma. At this stage, the lung has began to shrink causing moderate to severe breathing difficulties. the fibrosed lung tissues can further degenerate and proliferate into malignant cells called lung cancers or mesthelioma.
How to identify occupational lung disease: In most cases, occupational lung diseases present 20 to 25 years post exposure. That is pretty long time. However, there are also acute presentations. Someone exposed to toxic dust may have cough, sneezing, difficulty in breathing, restlessness, chest pain and over time cough out sputum mix with blood.
Occupational lung disease can manifest as Asthma, a respiratory disease that can begin or worsen due to exposure at work and is characterized by episodic narrowing of the respiratory tract and difficulty in breathing; Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); Bronchiolitis obliterans, a respiratory disease caused by injury to the smallest airways, called bronchioles; Hypersensitivity pneumonitis, an inflammation of the alveoli within the lung caused by hypersensitivity to inhaled dusts; Lung cancer is a growth within lung tissues.
You can do all manner of test including chest x-ray, pulmonary function test (PFT), bronchoscopy, computed tomography (CT scan), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and blood tests. All these tests do not alter the damage that has already taking place in the lung.
Difficult to treat: Occupational lung diseases are very difficult to treat, but the excellent way to treating them is through prevention of their occurrence. You can prevent lung disease by simply wearing face mask, avoiding smoking, following the safety guidelines and regulations at work place, do a regular lung function test at least twice a year if you are exposed or at high risk.
The signs and symptoms manifested by the various forms of occupational lung diseases can be managed medically, but nothing can be done to a damaged lung tissue. Although, some people advocate lung surgery, this has a high index of fatality depending on the extent of lung damage and procedure. Therefore, i urge you to avoid being exposed to toxic dusts at work and home. Try your best to maintain a healthy work ethic and remember to save the community by saving yourself and your environment.