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What careers put Illinoisans at risk for lung disease?

Too many people take their lungs for granted until they are stricken with a condition that impacts them. For many Illinoisans, their line of work can place them at particular risk for lung disease.

In addition to lung cancer, there are other lung diseases than can be very serious and even fatal. These include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (known as COPD), fibrosis and asthma. In addition to the obvious dangers to health, in some cases, these diseases can be career ending.

Many Illinoisans are involved in coal mining. Miners face the danger of developing some particularly severe lung diseases. These include pneumoconiosis (commonly known as "black lung"). The chronic and potentially fatal condition occurs when coal dust is inhaled and the lungs harden as a result. Coal mine owners can help safeguard against this and other lung diseases by ensuring that their workers have the proper protective equipment.

Farming, of course, is another way that many Illinoisans earn their living. Farmers are exposed to numerous materials while working with both crops and animals that can cause lung disease. One particular danger comes from being around hay or grain that's contaminated with mold. This can cause a condition called hypersensitivity pneumonitis. It causes inflammation and possibly scar tissue. Dust from grain can also cause something called organic dust toxic syndrome. Maintaining proper ventilation and possibly the use of a respirator can help prevent these conditions.

These are just a couple of the careers in which workers can develop lung disease. Of course, firefighters often work in conditions where, if proper equipment isn't used regularly, smoke and toxic particles can end up in the lungs. Workers in manufacturing plants, auto body shops, construction sites, hair salons and health care facilities also run the risk of inhaling various dangerous materials.

Workers need to protect themselves on the job. However, employers have a responsibility to provide proper equipment, ventilation and safety training for their workers. They are also responsible for taking all reasonable precautions to protect their health and safety.

Anyone who develops an illness that is job related should seek workers' compensation. If you believe that your employer did not do enough to help prevent the dangers to your health, you may also have a cause for legal action. An experienced Illinois attorney can advise you on your legal options.

Source: WebMD, "10 Risky Jobs for Your Lungs," Pamela Babcock, accessed Aug. 28, 2015

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