Archive for March, 2018

Work-Related Asthma Deaths On The Rise

Massachusetts workers' compensationEmployers are expected to take the health of their workers into consideration by ensuring that the work environment is safe, employees are properly trained to handle materials and employees are provided with protective gear.

Failure to do so can result in one of the many fatal consequences among workers – deaths caused by asthma. According to Mayo Clinic, asthma is a condition that causes swelling, narrowing and inflammation in the airways. While asthma doesn’t always cause serious complications for those who suffer from it, an asthma attack can be deadly. For those who suffer from asthma, their work environment can be a contributing factor in an asthma attack.

Occupations and chemicals most likely to cause asthma

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that an estimated 18.4 million adults in the US suffered from asthma in 2015, with approximately 3,396 asthma-related deaths. Additionally, occupational exposure to hazardous material was reported to cause 11 to 21 percent of asthma-related deaths among workers ages 15 to 64 from 1999 to 2016.

The CDC also determined the cause of asthma-related deaths in the workplace in 26 states during 1999, 2003, 2004, and 2007 to 2012. They found that:

  • Approximately 14,296 men and 19,011 women died from asthma.
  • The leading occupations in asthma-related deaths were construction for men and healthcare for women.
  • Industries with the highest rate of deaths involving asthma were food, beverage and tobacco manufacturing among men, and social services and social assistance among women.
  • Those most at risk of asthma-related deaths were workers ages 55 to 64, females, non-Hispanic/Latino people, and African-Americans.

According to the American Lung Association, other workers in other occupations are at risk of developing or worsening asthma. They include:

  • Teachers and school staff
  • Beauty salon workers
  • Janitors and housekeeping staff
  • Animal handlers
  • Construction workers
  • Laboratory technicians
  • Manufacturing laborers handling paper, textile, plastic and other materials
  • Bakers
  • Office workers

Occupational asthma can often be attributed to chemical exposure. These include:

  • Cleaning materials
  • Solvents
  • Disinfectants
  • Rubber latex
  • Antibiotics
  • Welding fumes
  • Paints
  • Chemicals found in insulation
  • Chemicals found in plastic
  • Rubber and foam
  • Compounds found in some foods

Asthma complications can start, or worsen, immediately after coming in contact with these materials. Sometimes, symptoms may take hours or days to manifest, but they always worsen while in regular contact with hazardous materials.

Preventative measures you can take

The first course of action to reduce asthma-related deaths in the workplace is taking preventative measures. In Massachusetts, reporting occupational diseases, such as asthma, is required by State Law (105 CMR300.180). The purpose of this reporting is so the Occupational Health Surveillance Program can collect and analyze data relating to occupational diseases.

If you find that your wheezing, coughing or difficulty breathing at worsens at work, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation. In that case, you should consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who can further discuss your options. Contact The Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl and find out how we can help you.