Occupational Exposure

September 12th, 2011 | Author: Fabiana Talbot

COPD is often considered a “smokers disease,” and yes, it is a primary cause.  However, did you know that approximately 15% of all COPD cases are due to occupational exposure to smoke and other pollutants??  When one is in contact with harmful gases, smokes, dust, and/or chemicals over a prolonged period of time, the result can be devastating to one’s lungs.  What can one do to prevent harm to the lungs – especially if s/he has no choice of work?

Deborah Leader, RN, made some good suggestions on About.com:

“Primary Prevention

The best way to approach occupational COPD is through prevention, both primary and secondary. Not only does prevention help reduce morbidity associated with workplace exposure, but it limits the severe disability that is often associated with the disease.

If you are currently working, the following primary prevention strategies will help you arrest workplace hazards before any damage to your lungs has been done:

  • Elimination — eliminate exposure to airway irritants by completely avoiding them (the best approach) and replace noxious substances with non-toxic agents.
  • Engineering controls — if substitution (as above) is not possible, maintain control by closing off the industrial process and properly ventilating the work area at all times.
  • Administrative controls — transfer to another department or change work duties.
  • Protect yourself — wear personal protective equipment (masks or respirators.)
  • Don’t smoke — either inside, or outside the workplace.

Secondary Prevention

Early detection is the key to secondary prevention, a strategy designed to reduce the duration of workplace exposure and limit its severity. The following examples are two important secondary prevention methods:

  • Medical surveillance programs that provide health screening questionnaires to employees during the initial hiring process and then repeated on an annual basis.

(taken from bing.com)

Folks working in industries dealing with rubber, plastics and leather manufacturing, utilities, textiles manufacturing, construction, and mining are at high risk for COPD.  “One study reported that 80 out of 1,000 non-smoking coal miners with cumulative, high levels of dust exposure could be expected to develop a 20% or greater loss of FEV1 attributable to dust. For gold miners, the risk was nearly three times that of coal miners, at less than one-fifth of the cumulative dust exposure.” (about.com)

What is your experience with occupational exposure to pollutants??  What can be done to protect those at risk?  Share your thoughts!

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