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What is being done about occupational lung disease?

This is a great time to ask about lung disease as November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. The discussion provides a good opportunity to remind North Carolina workers and their employers that lung disease lays waste to the lives of employees and their family members every year. It is an especially insidious occupational illness, slowly encroaching upon the lives of industrial workers and wreaking devastation upon their lungs.

Some of the most destructive forms of occupational lung disease include black lung or pneumoconiosis, silicosis, lung cancer and chronic beryllium disease. These workplace illnesses occur when employees are exposed to dust and other contaminates that enter the victim's lungs.

As far as what is being done to reduce or even eliminate lung disease in the workplace, several measures are underway. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has advanced a silica proposal based on over 75 years of research. If finalized, the proposal will improve the lung protection available to workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has also advanced a similar proposal targeting beryllium. If finalized, this proposal would markedly limit the volume of beryllium in the air that North Carolina employees must breathe while performing their duties.

At the government level, the U.S. Department of Labor is also working on the issue of occupational lung disease. Much of this work is focused on the proper use of respirators in the workplace. The Labor Department also advocates other measures such as decreasing the amount of dust workers must breathe.

Occupational lung disease is largely preventable. When employers and other persons of authority recognize this fact and put proper safety measures into place, the nation should see a dramatic decrease in the amount of work-related lung illnesses. In the interim, victims of occupational lung disease are encouraged to speak with an attorney about the legal options available.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, "Lung Health – A Workers’ Issue," Tom Perez, Nov. 12, 2015

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