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Occupational asthma is a potentially deadly workplace illness

Asthma is a disease that affects the respiratory systems of millions of people in California and other states. However, people who never suffered this illness can develop it in reaction to something to which they are exposed at work. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology says those experiencing the condition as a workplace illness make up approximately 15 percent of all asthma sufferers nationwide.

Employees mostly affected are metal workers, laboratory workers, agricultural workers, detergent manufacturers and health care workers. Specific substances to which they are exposed in their workplaces can cause swelling in their lungs and airways, triggering asthma attacks. Some workers will experience respiratory problems immediately upon exposure, and others may only be affected after several hours.

Substances that have been identified as triggers for occupational asthma include allergens such as chemicals, dust from grains and wood, animal dander, and fungi. Employees who experience respiratory problems at work must see a doctor and then discuss the issue with their employer. Measures to avoid exposure could include working in a different area on the work site or wearing respiratory protection.

If neither of these options is a viable solution, the employee might have to consider changing jobs because asthma is a workplace illness that could be deadly. The medical expenses for diagnosis and treatment of any occupational disease are compensable by the workers' compensation insurance program for California. However, proving this condition to be work-related might need the skills of an experienced workers' compensation attorney. A lawyer can assist in navigating the administrative and legal steps of the claims process.

Source: safetyandhealthmagazine.com, "Understanding occupational asthma," Oct. 17, 2017

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