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Occupational illness: Work-related asthma widespread in Missouri

The general health of many workers in Missouri is adversely affected by their occupations or their workplace surroundings. Sometimes a worker is exposed to health hazards that may lead to an occupational disease, but it is not uncommon for a worker to have an existing illness that is exacerbated by conditions at his or her workplace. The results from a 2012 study of information gathered from workers in 22 states by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that 23 percent of Missouri workers suffer from work-related asthma.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health explains that asthma occurs when a person's airways respond to an environmental irritant by constricting, causing breathing difficulties. Attacks can be triggered by dust, allergens, chemicals, fragrances and smoke. The severity of asthma attacks can vary from mild to severe and may even cause death. Asthma developed at the workplace is known as occupational asthma, but when a worker who is an asthma sufferer experiences an attack brought on by specific triggering conditions at work, it is known as work-exacerbated asthma.

Workers in a variety of occupations may be exposed to asthma triggers, including workers in industrial workplaces, metal machine shops and welding shops. Furthermore, those working in laboratories and hospitals, department stores and nail and hair salons may be exposed to chemical irritants that could cause asthma attacks. Furniture manufacturing and other woodworking factories produce large amounts of dust that could trigger an asthma attack.

Employers in Missouri and other states must identify areas in their facilities where conditions exist that could cause respiratory problems. Such areas should be adequately ventilated, and workers must be provided with breathing masks for protection. Although workers can pursue compensation for medical expenses by filing claims for workers' compensation, it may be difficult to prove that an occupational illness was caused by workplace conditions. This is when the assistance of an experienced workers' compensation attorney may be invaluable.

Source: philly.com, "Work-Related Asthma Affects Millions of U.S. Adults: CDC", Dennis Thompson, April 10, 2015

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