There’s something in the air at work – workplace diseases

Breathing. It’s something we do subconsciously roughly 20,000 times per day. That’s an average of around 11,000 litres of air passing through our lungs every 24 hours. When you stop and think about it, that’s an awful lot. When faced with a bad smell or when in the presence of a dusty cloud in the workplace, we know to hold our breath and move away from the issue. But what about if you can’t smell any problem? What about if you can’t see anything in the air?

Workplace diseases relating to breathing in poor quality air range from mild coughs to much more serious issues such as mesothelioma (speak to a local Mesothelioma lawyer for more information). Let’s take a look at some of the more common workplace diseases related to issues with breathing in airborne particles. 

Metallic dusts 

Certain industries may require workers to complete tasks involving metallic dusts. This can irritate the face, particularly around the eyes, nose, ears, and inside the throat. Sufferers can also experience a skin rash, and a congestion in the chest that means trouble with normal breathing. Liver and kidney damage is also reported in some cases of breathing in metallic dust in the workplace.   

Vegetable dusts

The horticulture and food preparation industries can lead to an above average exposure to vegetable dust. But it’s not only people working around food that may experience symptoms. Workers who regularly handle materials such as hemp, cotton, and flax may also breath in an above average amount of plant-based fibres over a prolonged period, leading to a disease called byssinosis. Sufferers may fully recover if removed from duties.

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Moulds and spores 

Moulds and spores may produce allergens, which can further exacerbate issues with breathing air in an under-ventilated workspace. While breathing in moulds is known to be a direct cause of asthma attacks, both moulds and spores can cause an allergic reaction. This could include sneezing, a red and itchy runny nose, itchy eyes, and a skin rash. 

Chemicals and pesticides

Certain chemicals and pesticides can be rapidly absorbed by the lungs. This means that the chemical or pesticide is able to enter the bloodstream and travel around the body in a relatively short period of time, although the immediate issues will tend to become noticeable before this happens – the nose, throat, and lung tissue will become agitated. Vapours containing chemicals and pesticides pose the biggest threat, as the hazardous material is extremely mobile when vaporized.

If you are concerned about breathing in dust in the workplace, speak to your line manager about the issue – proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) may be the simple solution that could prevent a workplace disease.