22 January 2014

A new research study, published in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health, has concluded that a group of potentially life-threatening lung diseases, known collectively as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), are caused by a very wide range of dusts and fumes, found across many industrial sectors.

COPD is an umbrella term used to describe a number of lung diseases that make breathing difficult, such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

For some time, it has been well known that breathing in certain dusts and fumes in the workplace, such as coal dusts and welding fumes, can cause COPD.

However, the new study has identified an extensive range of agents, found across many industrial sectors, as risk factors for COPD.

The identified agents include welding fume, coke dust, coal, asphalt, silica, cement, tunnel dust, cadmium, dust in glass bangle manufacture, bleach, cotton, flax, jute, farming dusts, grain, wood, rubber and endotoxins.

Based on the research, affected occupations include miners, farm labourers, textile workers, welders, road workers, tunnel/construction workers, glass workers, metal workers, chemical workers, foundry workers, wood workers, and rubber workers.

Commenting on the new research, Prof John Cherrie, Research Director at the Institute of Occupational Medicine, and a former President of British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS), said, “This new study presents strong and consistent evidence that many dusts and fumes are risk factors for COPD. Given the immense human suffering, not to mention the financial cost, associated with COPD, it is crucial that the Government, regulators and employers take note of the increasing evidence in this regard, including this latest study. Simple, cost-effective and proven occupational hygiene techniques can be employed in workplaces in order to address this issue.”