For centuries millions have lost their lives at the work place as a result of ever present hazards and or exposure to deleterious substances within the environment they work. Occupational disease refers to any disease contracted primarily from exposure to risk factors arising from work related activity. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration office of the United States department of Labor an estimated 14,000 workers lose their lives on the job every year. Last year alone an estimated 25.9 million working days were lost due to work-related illness.
Each year occupational lung diseases and lung cancer kill over 13,000 workers largely due to past exposures to chemicals and dusts in the workplace.Workers in Coal related industry, cement industries, chemical industries and those working in environments with high levels of toxic aerosols are more predisposed to occupational lung diseases and cancer.We have listed the top 5 five occupational diseases and the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the work place.
- Lead Poisoning
Lead Poisoning is very common among workers in lead acid battery factories and gas (Premium in motor spirit) sales attendants at Fuel stations. The condition is characterized by anemia, headaches, seizures, coma and death.A study which evaluated Occupational lead toxicity in battery workers published in the journal of occupational medicine and toxicology observed that, the level of urinary aminolevulinic acid amongst lead battery factory workers were significantly high. Exposure to higher concentrations leads to higher risk for cardiac autonomic dysfunction and severe lead poisoning often leads to anaemia, seizures, coma and death. In 2013 an estimated 853,000 people died as result lead related poisoning most of these deaths occurred in developing countries.
Mesothelioma is an aggressive type of cancer that affects the peritoneal mesothelioma a thin membrane lining the abdomen, chest and lungs. Ninety percent of mesothelioma cases are caused by exposure to asbestos in the work place. Construction workers and those who work at power stations, paper factory and textile industries are at a higher risk of developing this cancer. Symptoms of the disease include loss of appetite, pain, crackles within the lungs, fatigue, and shortness of breath and clubbing of fingers. There is currently no cure for this disease.
This is an occupational lung disease caused by inhalation of tiny bits of crystalline silica dust. The continuous inhalation of the silica dust gradually but progressively diminish the ability of the lungs to efficiently carry out its function of oxygenating the blood. This results in the formation solid noodles which scar and damage the lungs.The condition is characterized by shortness of breath after physical exertion, fatigue, chest pain, severe cough, Loss of appetite, cyanosis (bluish skin) and fever.
4. Industrial/ Occupational Asthma – Airborne toxins and aerosols disseminated as fumes, gases, vapors and dust are the leading cause of industrial asthma globally. This type of asthma develops as a result of the inhalation of substances found in the workplace. Several factors increases the risk of developing this condition this includes allergies; smoking and family history of asthma. Symptoms includes chronic cough, wheezing and asthma-like symptoms.
- Black lung
With the increase in the level of coal mining in many developing countries especially Nigeria, it has become imperative to share information about this important and deadly occupational disease related to coal. Black lung disease also referred to as coal worker’s pneumoconiosis is caused by long term exposure to coal dust which results in the scarring of the lung. The gradual but progressive inhalation and accumulation of coal dust in the lungs increases the risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and chronic bronchitis.
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