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Sometimes the feeling of not wanting to be at work is about more than just disliking the boss. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), more than 20 million U.S. workers are exposed to lethal substances that may cause respiratory diseases. Do you know what you’re breathing in on daily basis? Most of us don’t, and yet we are all coming down with sudden asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) cases because of the hazardous air we breath at work. The CDC also states that nearly 30% of asthma and COPD can be attributed to workplace exposure to toxins in the air.

How do you know if your work environment is less than stellar? Well, a list put together by the CDC and the American Lung Association on Civista Health‘s website breaks it down perfectly:

  • Asbestos was commonly used as an insulator and fire-retardant until scientists discovered that asbestos fibers are deadly, potentially causing asbestosis (scarring of lung tissues) and lung cancer. Workers most at risk of asbestos exposure include those in mining, construction, demolition, shipyards, tiling, electrical insulation and paving, among other industries. ALA says it can be years between exposure to asbestos and development of symptoms.
  • Dust can come from such things as wood, cotton, coal, asbestos, silica and talc. ALA says dusts from textile processing cause byssinosis (“brown lung”), a chronic condition involving obstruction of the small airways. Coal dust causes coal workers’ pneumoconiosis or “black lung,” also an obstruction of the small airways. Silica affects workers in mines, foundries, blasting operations, and stone, glass and clay manufacturing.
  • Fumes can be given off by metals that are heated and cooled quickly, according to AAFP. Examples of jobs that involve exposure to such fumes are welding, smelting, furnace work, pottery making, plastics manufacture and rubber operations.
  • Toxins found in various grains are a risk for hundreds of thousands of agricultural workers. Moldy hay can produce flu-like symptoms, according to AAFP.  Farm workers are also at risk of exposure to hair, feathers, animal dander and bacteria.
  • Anthrax is caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. It most commonly occurs in hoofed mammals such as sheep, cattle, horses and goats. Farm workers, veterinarians and those who work tanning hides or processing wool are at risk of contracting the disease by inhaling spores of the bacterium. In addition to inhaled anthrax, there is also a skin form of anthrax.
  • Gases such as formaldehyde, ammonia and chlorine, can be found in jobs where chemical reactions occur and in jobs with high heat operations, such as welding and furnace work.
  • Vapors can be given off by solvents, and usually irritate the nose and throat first, before they affect the lungs, according to AAFP.
  • Paints, lacquer, hair spray, pesticides, cleaning products, acids and solvents can also cause damage to the airways.
  • Latex allergies have become a major problem for healthcare workers, as a result of increased use of protective gloves. CDC says studies show that over one in fifty healthcare workers have developed latex-related asthma.
  • Mold can trigger allergic reactions, and is a problem for farmers, dairy workers, mill workers and carpenters.
  • Exposure to animals may induce the development of allergies to animal dander or excretions.

So, what can you do about all these airborne toxins? Well, for starters you can talk to the head of your institution about investing in some proper air filtration. For jobs that require direct exposure to toxins (such as welding, air restoration, dental and medical laboratories and clinics, embalming, beauty salons, sand blasting) a direct source air purifier (such as Electrocorp’s AirMarshal Series or the FumeExtractor) will keep your lungs happy and healthy no matter what’s flying around in the air.

A healthy workforce is a productive workforce and employers need to understand that. Until every company understands the importance of IAQ then workers across the US, Canada and the world will suffer from occupational respiratory problems. However, you can take the first step by talking to your superiors if you work with any of the above toxic substances — and remember that Electrocorp is always there to answer your industrial air purification questions and needs.