Authored by JoannaRasmuson

Occupational and environmental lung diseases and how to prevent them

August 22, 2019 | Pulmonology

With an increase in ozone and particle pollution, it is becoming more and more important to take care of your lung health. If you breathe in these damaging toxins, your lungs—as well as the rest of your body—may suffer the consequences.

Occupational and environmental conditions, such as your work environment or the city that you live in, can play a huge role in the number of toxins that you inhale and your overall lung health.  Although some of these conditions often cannot be changed, there are many things you can do to ensure that your lungs are healthy and strong.


Occupational lung disease

Occupational lung diseases are work-related lung conditions made worse by materials found in the work environment. Work-related lung diseases are caused by inhaling airborne irritants over long periods of time. Pet shop owners, butchers, farmers, tannery workers, archaeologists and healthcare workers are surrounded by many chemicals and toxins that can affect their lung health if they aren’t careful. People who have jobs working in dusty areas, for example, can inhale up to 200 mg of dust every day. Those who work in an office may not be exposed to as many airborne pathogens, but they can still be at risk.


Environmental lung disease

Environmental lung diseases are lung conditions caused by outside elements such as air pollution, garbage, natural disasters, and cigarette or tobacco smoke. Those who live in large metropolitan areas inhale more toxins than those who live in a smaller town because of higher amounts of toxins, fumes and dust. Cars and trucks also contribute huge amounts of pollution to our atmosphere every time we use them. 


Some common symptoms of occupational and environmental lung diseases are:

  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Chest tightness
  • Abnormal breathing patterns

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, consult your doctor.


How to keep your lungs healthy

You may not be able to change your job or move to a smaller town to avoid these lung diseases, but there are some things you can do now to keep your lungs healthy. Try to incorporate some of these tips into your daily routine.


  1. Don’t smoke:

Smoking cigarettes is extremely dangerous to not only your health but also to everyone else around you. Smoking causes many health problems, including lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Cigarette smoke can also narrow your air passages and make it harder to breathe. Quitting now will help clean the air you and others breathe. If you want to quit, The American Lung Association has created a wonderful program to help you. You can also talk to your doctor.

  1. Prevent infection:

A common cold can turn into a serious lung problem if you aren’t careful. Take necessary precautions by washing your hands, get your flu/vaccination shots, and brush your teeth at least twice a day and see your dentist often.


  1. Regularly clean your home:

If your house is left unchecked, dust particles and other indoor irritants can cause respiratory problems. Wipe down your counters after you use them, clean your dishes daily, and wash your clothes and bedsheets. It is also important to change your air filter often and clean your kitchen appliances (refrigerator coils, furnaces and ducts.)

  1. Check on the air quality before you go outside:

The United States Environmental Protection Agency’s website, AirNow, can help you see the air quality in your city. Visit this website before you spend a day outside.

  1. Have regular check-ups:

It is important to visit your doctor annually even when you are feeling well. Lung diseases can go undetected until they are serious. Your doctor will check your breathing and listen to any concerns you may have.

  1. Exercise:

Exercise isn’t just for those who want to lose weight. Exercising every day will keep your body fit and your heart and lungs healthy.


Our physicians are specialized in a variety of respiratory illnesses and work with your primary care physician to customize your treatment plan. Our specialists understand the connection between the lungs and other areas of medicine including cardiology and endocrinology.



“Imaging of Occupational Lung Disease.” Radiological Society of North America.


“Tips to Keep Your Lungs Healthy.” American Lung Association.


“Healthy Living.”


“Occupational Lung Diseases.” Cedars-Sinai Health Library.


“Environmentally Induced Lung Disease.” American Thoracic Society.



The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.