Jobs That May Be Bad for Your Lungs

Job-related lung disease is just one of many occupational hazards. Some fields can be more risky that others. But according to an article on, most types of occupational lung disease are preventable. Philip Harber, MD, professor and chief of the UCLA Occupational and Environmental Medicine Division says, “Simple control measure can markedly reduce expose and the risk.” Below are a few fields that can be detrimental to lung health.

Construction: Demolition or construction dust can expose workers to lunch casnter, mesothelioma, and asbestos. Wearing protective gear, including a respirator, can help.

Manufacturing: Factory workers are often exposed to dust, chemicals, and gases, which could put them at risk for COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). When mixing ingredients, it is recommended that workers put a lid on the container and wear a filtering mask.

Health Care: An estimated 8% to 12% of health-care workers are allergic to the powder residue in latex gloves, which can cause a severe asthma-type reaction. Things that may help are limiting exposure if possible or switching to latex-free synthetic gloves.

Textiles: When cotton or other materials are torn apart, workers can inhale dust particles that can cause byssinosis, or brown lung disease, that causes airflow obstruction. It is recommended that textile workers wear a mask. Improving ventilation in the work area can also be beneficial.

Bartending: Bartenders and servers who are exposed to second-hand smoke over many years are at high risk for lung disease. The ban on smoking in restaurants and bars has helped this situation, and a good ventilation system can help in places where smoking is still allowed.

Baking: Flour dust can cause an asthmatic reaction to enzymes that alter the consistency of dough. It can also contain allergens shed by bugs, including beetles, moths, and weevils, that are often found in flour. Those in the baking industry are encouraged to use protective masks as well as good ventilation.

Automotive Industry: Spray-on paints, such as those used in the auto-repair industry, can irritate the skin, create allergies, cause chest tightening and breathing problems. To reduce the risk, use respirators, gloves, goggles, and ventilation.

Transportation: COPD and lung cancer can affect those in the transportation industry, such as delivery truck drivers, those who unload merchandise on loading docks, and railroad industry workers. Ways to counteract the risks include staying out of the direct line of diesel exhaust and wearing protective masks.

Mining: Coal dust and airborne silica exposure puts miners at risk for a number of lung diseases, including COPD and silicosis. Black lung also develops after years of exposure to coal dust. Using dust-filtering masks is recommended.

Firefighting: Burning buildings expose firefighters to a wide range of chemicals and smoke, as well as toxic materials and asbestos even after the fire is put out. The International Association of Firefighters urges the use of respiratory protective equipment at all stages of firefighting.

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