Work-related restrictive pulmonary disorders are lung diseases that result from exposure to harmful substances in the workplace. These conditions can be caused by various occupational hazards, such as inhalation of dust, fumes, gases, and vapours.
Common occupational restrictive pulmonary disorders
These examples are caused by particles that penetrate deeply into the lungs, causing damage to the lung tissue. They are typically smaller than 2.5 micrometres in diameter:
• Asbestosis: this is a lung disease caused by inhaling asbestos fibres. Asbestos is a mineral fibre that was widely used in construction and insulation materials in the past. Chronic exposure to these fibres can lead to scarring of lung tissue, which can result in a restrictive lung disease. It may also lead to the formation of lung plaques and cause a type of cancer called mesothelioma.
• Silicosis: exposure to respirable crystalline silica may cause this lung disease which may result in restrictive symptoms, obstructive symptoms (such as COPD) or a combination of the two. Silica is a mineral found in rocks, sand, and soil, and is commonly encountered in industries such as mining, construction, and stone cutting. Chronic exposure to silica dust may lead to scarring of lung tissue, which can result in a restrictive pattern when measured.
• Pneumoconiosis: also known as Coal Workers’ Lung, or Black Lung Disease, this condition is caused by inhaling coal dust. Coal miners and other workers exposed to fine carbon (graphite) dust are at risk of developing this condition which can cause scarring of lung tissue and eventually lead to a restrictive lung disease or obstructive disorders such as COPD.
• Berylliosis: a lung disease caused by exposure to beryllium dust, a metal used in various industries, such as aerospace, electronics, and nuclear power plants. Chronic exposure to beryllium can lead to scarring of lung tissue.
• Hypersensitivity pneumonitis: this is a lung disease caused by exposure to organic dusts or chemicals, such as mould, bacteria, and animal proteins. Workers in industries such as farming, animal handling, and food processing may be at risk of developing this disease which can result in several lung conditions, including restrictive lung disorders.
Shining a light on restrictive pulmonary disorders
Restrictive pulmonary disorders often receive less publicity than obstructive disorders such as COPD and industrial asthma even though, in the long term, they can be just as debilitating. They are characterised by the long term inhalation of fine dusts, gases and vapours, common in many workplaces, that can lead to inflammation of lung tissue and eventually scarring.
This results in a pattern of reduced lung volume over several (often many) years. Early symptoms are often missed because of these slow, gradual changes if employees are not enrolled into an appropriate health surveillance programme.
If you have a question or would like to know more about work-related restrictive pulmonary disorders, or alternatively if you would like to book in health surveillance, contact us via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone: 0121 601 4041.