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Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers


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Workers Suffering from Respiratory Diseases

There are many different diseases that can affect the lungs. Some of them develop from conditions in the workplace and are known as occupational respiratory diseases. Particulate matter or particles in the air such as dust, soot, and molds can be inhaled and absorbed into the body in this way. The finer the particles, the more damage there is to the lungs because of how deeply they can be inhaled. Respiratory illness can manifest itself in mild forms that can be managed through treatment, but severe cases can lead to lung cancer and risk of other diseases including tuberculosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Workers at high risk of developing occupational respiratory diseases include construction workers, those in the textile industry, firefighters, coal miners, and agricultural workers.

Common irritants to the lungs are found in many forms including:

  • Dust from coal, asbestos, silica, talc, wood, cotton and fiberglass
  • Fumes produced in jobs that involve welding, smelting, furnace work, ceramics and plastics manufacturing
  • Smoke produced by burning materials can contain a variety of irritants in the form of particles, vapors and gases
  • Mists from pesticides, spray paint, and cleaning products

Types of Occupational Respiratory Diseases

  • Asbestosis – a danger for construction workers working on older buildings that contain asbestos insulation. Asbestos exposure is also linked to mesothelioma.
  • Bronchiolitis obliterans or Popcorn lung – a serious lung disease that develops in workers in microwave popcorn plants and others who handle flavorings. Butter flavorings in food products such as frostings, chips, and margarines pose a risk of popcorn lung for the workers exposed to them.
  • Byssinosis or brown lung – a lung disease found in cotton, flax and hemp workers
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) – COPD is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. and includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
  • Coal worker’s pneumoconiosis or black lung disease – caused by inhaling coal dust
  • Farmer’s lung – an allergy to mold and bacteria found in crops that produces asthma-like symptoms, but can also cause permanent lung damage that can be fatal.
  • Flock worker’s lung – flock is the result of cutting nylon fibers into small strands which are used for carpeting, blankets and upholstery. Inhaling the fibers every day can cause inflammation and scarring of the lungs.
  • Silicosis – commonly known as miner’s lung, silica dust is also found in stone, clay, and glass manufacturing facilities

The symptoms of occupational respiratory disease can vary from person to person but commonly include coughing, dry or sore throat, chest pain and tightness, shortness of breath and/or abnormal breathing pattern.

Diagnosis of an occupational respiratory disease begins with chest X-rays or a CT scan to check for inflammation, masses or fluid in the lungs. Additional tests to measure lung function and biopsy of tissue, fluid, and cells from the lung may also be conducted, as well as examination of bronchial (airway) activity.

If you have been diagnosed with an occupational disease, consult an experienced Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyer as compensation may be available to you. Try to keep a record of your symptoms noting the day and time they occur and for how long. Your doctor will need to know what kind of materials you may have been exposed to at work and any previous employment history. He or she will also want to see your completed occupational health history forms. By law your employer is required to keep records of all the products used in the workplace. You should obtain copies of these material safety data sheets (MSDSs) as well as a list of precautions and safety measures used at your job.

Prevention of Occupational Respiratory Diseases

Occupational respiratory diseases have no cure so prevention is critical. For many hazardous substances, there are federal standards for exposure of which employers must comply to protect their workers. Safety measures include taking steps to reduce dust and measuring the number of airborne particles to ensure they remain at acceptable levels. For tasks where dust cannot be reduced, respirators must be provided. Proper ventilation also helps keep air in the workplace clean.  If you have been diagnosed with occupational respiratory disease you may have to change jobs if your employer cannot limit your exposure.

Pennsylvania law provides for Workers’ Compensation benefits if your respiratory disease was caused by or aggravated by your employment. To be eligible for compensation, the disability had to take place within 300 weeks of your last job in an occupation that exposed you to the hazard. If your claim is successful you may receive payments for lost wages, specific loss benefits, and medical care including medicine and rehabilitation services. The statute of limitations for filing is very specific so it is crucial that you contact a qualified attorney without delay.

Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers of Gross & Kenny, LLP Represent Workers Suffering from Respiratory Diseases

At Gross & Kenny, LLP, our skilled Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyers have the knowledge and experience to handle complex cases of occupational respiratory diseases. Call us now at 267-589-0090 or 215-512-1500, or contact us online for a free consultation about your case. Our office is conveniently located in Center City Philadelphia, where we represent clients throughout Pennsylvania.