Lung disease in construction workers linked to asbestos, other exposures, study finds

16 Sep 2015 by under News, Research/Treatment

construction worker 100x100 Lung disease in construction workers linked to asbestos, other exposures, study findsA recent study conducted by the Center for Construction Research and Training and Duke University found that found that one-fifth of chronic lung disease in construction workers is linked to , silica, dust, and other on-the-job exposures.

The study, published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, assessed 2,077 older construction workers participating in a national medical screening program. Of those workers, 834 had been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The rest were controls.

The researchers compared the work history, smoking habits, and medical screening results of the construction workers with and without COPD between 1997 and 2013. Their findings indicate that while smoking remains the main cause of COPD, workplace exposure to asbestos and other construction hazards poses a more significant risk than previously thought and underscores the need for employers to take appropriate measures to protect workers.

“We estimate that approximately 18% of COPD risk among construction workers can be attributed to occupational exposures,” the researchers concluded, adding that “the fraction among those who never smoked may be as high as 32%.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) consistently finds that construction work remains one of the most dangerous occupations in the U.S. because it exposes workers to a multitude of serious hazards on the job. The Center for Construction Research and Training’s study underscores the damage that exposure to potentially dangerous agents can cause over a prolonged period.

According to the researchers, increased COPD risk has been associated with asbestos, coal dust, silica, welding and cutting gases and fumes, cement dust, diesel exhaust, organic solvents, and man-made mineral fibers, among others. These harmful agents take the form of dust, gases, irritants, and fumes.

Asbestos is a particularly potent killer. In addition to causing COPD, it can promote the development of , a cancer of the lining of the lung, heart, or abdomen that is nearly always fatal.

Source: American Journal of Industrial Medicine

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