How is chemical worker's lung prevented?

Updated: Dec 24, 2019
  • Author: Shakeel Amanullah, MD; Chief Editor: John J Oppenheimer, MD  more...
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Answer

Avoiding exposure to the offending toxin or toxins is essential. A change of occupation may be necessary. Industries known to be associated with lung disease should have routine screening of all workers who may become exposed to the offending agent. This should include repeated questionaires, spirometry, complete pulmonary function tests (PFTs), and, if needed, appropriate imaging studies. If concerning symptoms or findings are found, referral to a pulmonologist or occupational health physician is recommended.

Complete PFTs should be done at the time of employment, spirometry and complete PFTs during employment, and after termination of employment. This becomes extremely important in patients with pre-existing lung disease.

Longitundinal trending changes in FEV1 may also be used for monitoring. If a decline in FEV1 greater than 15% is noted from the workers pervious best, this indicates the need for a complete PFT (even if within the normal limits), and a repeat complete PFT be performed in 4-6 weeks. If the results are persistent, then specialist consultation is recommended as objective testing such as high-resolution CT chest may be indicated.

If a workplace lung disease is suggested, the physician should strongly recommend avoidance of further exposure. Use of protective gear may not always prevent exposure; thus, total avoidance of further exposure by alternative employment or change of work responsibilities is recommended.


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