While construction workers are very conscious of safety when it comes to things like falls or machinery accidents, they might not realize that research shows those working in the construction industry are twice as likely to develop COPD as others. Short for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, COPD is an ailment in which the lungs are too damaged to function properly, leading to a lifetime of medical interventions and sometimes even death.
According to an article in Yahoo News, construction workers are twice as susceptible because of the often toxic air present on the job site. “Almost a fifth of COPD among construction workers is due to on-the-job exposure to vapors, gases, dust and fumes, according to a 2015 Duke University study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine,” The article says. “When researchers looked at over 800 construction workers with COPD, they found that almost a third (32 percent) of the cases were due to workplace exposures among construction workers who had never smoked.”
Silica and asbestos are other common lung irritants found in the construction industry – each of which can have a debilitating effect on lung health. When combined with other irritants like paints, thinners and stripping agents, the effect can be far more damaging than if a worker had smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for their entire life, researchers are finding. And for construction workers who do smoke, their susceptibility to COPD is staggering. Being overweight is a risk factor as well, and studies find that over half of construction workers could be classified as obese.
There are a number of measures that OSHA has outlined to mitigate the damage to construction worker lungs, the article explains, including procedures like “wet cutting,” wearing respirator masks, and using extra caution when cleaning up particles that may contain silica to minimize exposure. OSHA also suggests yearly breathing tests for workers and advises them to stay current on vaccines to avoid flu complications.
To learn more about workplace air quality safety, read the entire story HERE.