Do you work at a chemical plant or a paper mill in Pennsylvania? Or, maybe you work at a gas station, a coal mine or on a construction site. While all these occupations expose you to risks of physical injuries, they also pose hazards that could cause occupational diseases. One such condition is asthma, which is a lung disorder that involves the swelling and narrowing of the airways in the lungs.
If you find yourself wheezing and coughing a lot while you experience a painful pressure and a feeling of tightness in your chest along with shortness of breath, it could be asthma. If this condition occurs after exposure to substances at your workplace, your asthma could be work-related. The environments at many different workplaces can cause this disease or exacerbate the situation in workers who already have asthma.
Which substances can cause work-related asthma?
You could experience symptoms of asthma immediately upon exposure to an irritant, or hours later. Some workers work with substances for years before their lungs react to the exposure. Safety authorities have identified over 250 elements that could cause occupational asthma, including the following:
- Chemicals used in the manufacturing of products like paint and cleaning materials
- Airborne particles and dust from grain, wood and flour
- Latex, such as in gloves worn in medical and other occupations
- Biological substances like certain molds, insecticides, animals, plants and insects
- Cigarette smokers may be at a higher risk
Employees who work with chemicals in various manufacturing plants along with health care workers and hairdressers are at risk. Employees in the textile industry and wood manufacturing and those who work in grain elevators and silos, bakeries and other environments could react to irritants or allergens that can cause new-onset asthma, or it could aggravate existing asthma.
How can employers control occupational asthma?
People with work-related asthma can become debilitated and unable to return to work. Others might have to quit their jobs and find other employment to avoid the substances that affect them. Employers can take the following steps to control exposure:
- Reduce or eliminate environmental irritants and allergens in the workplace
- Replace irritants with less harmful substances to avoid worsening symptoms
- Establish surveillance methods for early detection and treatment of the disease
Steps to take if you are a victim
If your professional or work environment caused you to develop occupational asthma, you would likely struggle to cope with the financial consequences. Although the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation insurance program covers work-related illnesses, it might make sense for you to discuss the matter with an attorney who is experienced in dealing with these types of benefits claims. A lawyer can assist with the navigation of the legal and administrative proceedings in pursuit of maximum coverage of your financial losses.