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Learn about occupational lung disease, and how to keep your workplace safe. Work-related respiratory diseases are common, but many cases can be avoided by providing personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers. You can ensure that your community, family or workplace is prepared by stocking up on NIOSH-certified respirators from MediDent Supplies.

What is occupational lung disease?

Any lung problem or disease that is caused or exacerbated by work environments is an occupational lung disease. Usually, occupational lung diseases are caused by long-term, repeated exposure to harmful irritants that are inhaled as particulate matter. Certain job sites, because of their location and environment, are more at risk for lung diseases than others.

Lung diseases can occur and worsen even long after exposure has ended. The smaller the particles are, the deeper they can be inhaled, and therefore more potentially damaging to the lungs.

Common causes

  1. Dust/Fibers from substances such as coal, asbestos, silica, textiles, or even food particles.
  2. Fumes from heating or cooling materials.
  3. Organic irritants like spores, animal hair or dander, or plant proteins.
  4. Smoke from burning materials.
  5. Gases from high-heat operations or chemical labs.
  6. Sprays like lacquers, pesticides, and solvents.

Common diseases

  1. Black Lung Disease, aka Coal workers’ pneumoconiosis. Black Lung Disease is caused by breathing in coal dust, and can cause inflammation and severe scarring, resulting in difficulty breathing.
  2. Asbestosis. Asbestosis is commonly associated with construction work. It is caused by inhaling microscopic asbestos fibers. This can lead to scarring over time.
  3. Silicosis. Often contracted in manufacturing facilities, foundries, and mines, silicosis occurs when airborne silica is inhaled.
  4. Brown Lung Disease, aka Byssinosis. Brown Lung Disease is caused by inhaling particles from natural textiles such as cotton. It can cause difficulty breathing and chest pain.
  5. Hypersensitivity pneumonitis. Hypersensitivity pneumonitis is caused by an allergy to organic substances such as spores or bacteria. This disease can cause inflamed areas in the lungs, leading to fibrous tissue and eventually, scarring.
  6. Work-related asthma. Work-related asthma can be caused by a variety of environmental irritants, and produces asthma symptoms like coughing and wheezing. For more information, please see Limiting the Risk of Work-Related Asthma.

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Symptoms of occupational lung disease may resemble other health conditions or problems, such as a cold or flu. Common symptoms include:


Work-related lung diseases are preventable. The best prevention is to stay away from the substances that cause lung problems, but this is not always possible. Other preventative precautions include:

N95 respirators

In an explanation on proper use of PPE, the CDC states that N95 respirator masks provide the best protection because they “[…] reduce the wearer’s exposure to airborne particles, from small particle aerosols to large droplets. N95 respirators are tight-fitting respirators that filter out at least 95% of particles in the air, including large and small particles.”

Be prepared by having respirators on hand. Companies and healthcare providers nationwide trust MediDent Supplies for their face covering and COVID testing supplies. Browse MediDent’s thorough selection of PPE and sanitization supplies today and ensure your workplace is safe.

Purchasing in bulk? Contact our experienced team for wholesale orders.