When you think about work-related injuries in the construction industry, you may immediately think of falls or accidents related to power tools and heavy equipment. However, another danger may be in the air around construction workers throughout their day. What should construction workers know about the risk of lung disease?

What job site hazards might lead to occupational lung disease?

Occupational lung disease usually involves repeated exposure to airborne dust, particles or chemicals that slowly damage the lungs over time. The construction industry involves many of these hazards, from wood dust and silica thrown into the air by cutting building materials to chemicals involved in paints, adhesives and other substances. When performing renovations on older structures, construction workers may also be at risk for asbestos exposure.

What lung conditions can result from occupational exposure?

Occupational exposure to different particles and chemicals can lead to a variety of different lung conditions. These conditions can include:

  • Cancers, including mesothelioma
  • Silicosis or scarring of the lungs due to silica exposure
  • Work-related asthma
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

These conditions can lead to coughing, pain and tightness in the chest, difficulty breathing and other symptoms. In the physically demanding construction industry, the symptoms related to lung disease can make it difficult to perform daily tasks.

Thankfully, workers who develop lung conditions related to their work in the construction industry may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits can help them address the cost of treatment for their condition and the wages lost due to time away from work.