Breathing in certain dusts, gases, fumes and vapours within the workplace can cause asthma.
What is Asthma?
Asthma is a condition which affects the airways - the small tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs. When a person with asthma comes into contact with something that irritates their airways (an asthma trigger), the muscles around the walls of the airways tighten so that the airways become narrower and the lining of the airways becomes inflamed and starts to swell, making it difficult to breath. Sometimes, sticky mucus or phlegm builds up, which can further narrow the airways.
In some cases asthma can subside over time, however in other cases, a person may need to take medication to treat their asthma for the rest of their lives.
Common symptoms of asthma are:
- Painful coughing
- Shortness of breath and tightness across the chest.
Common triggers known to worsen asthma are colds and flu viruses, cigarette smoke, dust, pollen and animal hairs.
Asthma can start at any time of life. It can be a hereditary condition, but it can also be caused by a person's lifestyle and environment.
If a person develops asthma later on in life then it tends to suggest that it may have been caused by something in their environment, rather than as a result of a hereditary condition.
The symptoms can develop right after exposure to a workplace substance, but sometimes symptoms appear several hours later, possibly at night. This can make any link with workplace activities unclear.
What is Occupational Asthma?
- In many cases asthma is caused by a person's working conditions.
- It is an allergic reaction that can occur in some people when they are exposed to certain substances, for example flour or wood dust in the workplace.
- Not everyone who becomes sensitised goes on to get asthma, but once the lungs become hypersensitive, further exposure to the substance, even at quite low levels, may trigger an attack.
- Respiratory irritants may also trigger attacks in those with pre-existing asthma (sometimes since childhood).
Frequently reported agents that cause occupational asthma:
- Isocyanates (found in many paints and foams)
- Flour and grain dust
- Latex (healthcare workers are particularly at risk, gloves should be powder free)
- Insects and animals in laboratories
- Opiates (including morphine, heroin and codeine C35)
- Wood dust
- Caster bean dust
- Epoxy resin curing agents
However, many other irritant substances can have the same affect, such as dust or smoke. The asthma may not develop until several weeks or months have passed following the initial exposure.
Occupations exposed to risk of occupational asthma include:
- Bakery workers
- Healthcare workers
- Paint sprayers
- Laboratory technicians
- Chemical workers
- Laboratory animal workers
- Agriculture workers
- Engineering workers
- Foam manufacturing
Who is to blame for your Occupational Asthma?
Employers are responsible for the wellbeing of their staff at work. There are detailed regulations in place which are designed to protect all workers from exposure to chemicals and other potentially harmful substances in the workplace and these are called "The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1988" or COSHH for short.
If a person believes they have been exposed to a hazardous substance at work, which has caused them to develop asthma, then they may be entitled to make an asthma compensation claim.
Compensation claim advice for Occupational Asthma sufferers
If you, or someone you know, believes that working conditions have caused you /them to develop asthma, or have made your existing asthma condition worse, telephone us now for free claim advice, as you may be eligible to make an asthma compensation claim.
At least 1 in 10 cases of new or recurrent asthma in adults are caused by workplace exposure and these cases are largely related to the high number of substances used at work.
Industrial diseases can often develop as a result of your employment conditions. Your employer (and past employers) has a legal responsibility to provide a safe working environment.
Severe and permanently disabling asthma, causing prolonged and regular coughing, sleep disturbance, severe impairment of physical activity and gross restriction of employment prospects:- £28,250 - £43,000.
Chronic asthma, causing breathing difficulties, the regular need to use inhalers, some restriction of employment, with an uncertain prognosis: £17,250 - £28,250.
Bronchitis and wheezing, affecting your working or social life, with the likelihood of substantial recovery within a few years of exposure to the cause ceasing: £12,600 - £17,250.
Relatively, mild asthma like symptoms often resulting from exposure to harmful irritating substances: £7,000 - £12,600.