What occupational respiratory diseases affect workers in the industrial sector


The work environment is often an unhealthy place and can lead to various occupational diseases, the most common and hazardous of which, are those to the respiratory system of workers involved in industrial processing.

Occupational diseases affecting the respiratory system

There are numerous diseases affecting the respiratory system of workers in the industrial sector:

  • Among these asthma is the most frequent owing to contact with sensitizing agents such as paintwork and sandblasting residues. This disease can lead to breathing difficulties, rhinitis and cough. Symptoms cease only after some years have passed from exposure to the sensitizing substances.
  • Another frequent illness is allergic alveolitis, whose symptoms are similar to those of asthma, but high temperature is usually present as well. This illness is due to the inhalation of tiny industrial processing particles which lead to particular sensitivity.
  • The industrial sector also exposes workers to the risk of COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease which is an actual weakening and obstruction of the airways. This disease is usually caused by exposure to coal and silica dusts, which are still used in certain industrial processes nowadays. COPD is a disease that can be controlled and treated with drugs, but it is irreversible and causes permanent lung damage. The main symptoms are breathlessness, cough and frequent chest infections.
  • Lastly, Mesothelioma is a rare, aggressive form of cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs. People who have worked with or been exposed to asbestos, e.g.  shipyard and construction workers, painters, electricians etc.) have the highest risk of developing mesothelioma. After being exposed to asbestos, mesothelioma symptoms can take up to 15 years to appear.

How to protect oneself effectively from occupational diseases of the respiratory system

As previously mentioned, occupational diseases of the respiratory system are usually caused by the inhalation of microparticles. Therefore, in order to protect workers from exposure, current legislation specifies that Respiratory Protective Devices are to be worn when working in risk environments. These devices are to be appropriate and protect the respiratory tract from micro and fine particles. The recommended respiratory protective devices available for the protection of industry workers are battery powered face masks equipped with appropriate cartridges/filters which purify the air and prevent harmful microparticles from being inhaled into the lungs. Most models are also provided with systems for expelling excess and expired air while some models are equipped with pressure and airflow checking and control devices to prevent excessive air flow. Furthermore, most face mask models also have a visor demisting system.

Respiratory protective devices may be equipped with filters and cartridges of different classes depending on the worker’s exposure time to hazardous substances and, in the case of respirators equipped with helmets, these devices can also offer hearing and eye protection.

All respiratory protective devices need to undergo periodic checks in order to ensure their maximum efficiency over time.

The  Kasco industrial range of products     are recommended for use in various industrial processing environments and help protect workers from a number of occupational diseases that could affect the respiratory system.