Exposure to certain chemicals and other substances may cause or aggravate asthma, experts say.

Certain workplace chemicals or other pollutants may cause or aggravate asthma.

Asthma is a common lung disease brought on by inflammation and narrowing of the air passages that causes people to wheeze, cough and have trouble breathing.

The condition can affect a worker’s quality of life and ability to work and it can also be life threatening if it is not managed properly.

It is sometimes difficult for people with work-related asthma to make the connection because the symptoms are the same as regular asthma.

With work-related asthma, symptoms are usually worse on working days and workers may feel relief when they are away from the workplace during their days off and on vacation, for example.

Experts have identified a number of workplace pollutants that may cause or aggravate asthma:

  • Chemicals, including isocyanates
  • Metals and metal-working fluids
  • Dyes, drugs and enzymes
  • Grains, flours, plants, gums
  • Animal and shellfish protein
  • Fungi (mold)
  • Wood dust
  • Vapors, gases, dusts, mists, sprays or fumes from industrial materials
  • Cleaning products
  • Dust mites
  • Indoor air pollution due to poor ventilation
  • Outdoor air pollution and smog (for outdoor workers)

Tips for prevention

Employers can and should do a number of things to improve indoor air quality at the workplace and help protect workers from exposure.

If possible, the asthma-causing or –aggravating substance should be eliminated from the workplace or replaced by a less hazardous substance.

Employers and managers can introduce helpful policies, procedures, safe work practices and job rotation to minimize workers’ exposure. This includes providing personal protective equipment when needed.

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Activated carbon air cleaners can help remove airborne chemicals and vapors.

To control the exposure, think about closed-off areas where hazardous agents may be released into the air, improved ventilation systems and air cleaners to contain gases and vapors at the source.

Monitoring the exposure levels and training employees are other important steps.

On the other side, employees, too, need to work together with their employers to make sure the workplace is as safe and healthy as possible. They should also be aware of the symptoms of occupational asthma and report any health issues promptly.

Source: MRO Magazine

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