Occupational Lung Diseases: Pneumoconioses
Diseases of the lungs occur in numerous occupations as a result of exposure to organic and inorganic (mineral) dusts and noxious gases (fumes and aerosols). The effects of inhaling these materials depend on the composition of the substance, its concentra-tion, its ability to initiate an immune response, its irritating prop-erties, the duration of exposure, and the individual’s response or susceptibility to the irritant. Smoking may compound the prob-lem and may increase the risk of lung cancers in people exposed to the mineral asbestos. Key aspects of any assessment of patients with a potential occupational respiratory history include job and job activities, exposure levels, general hygiene, time frame of ex-posure, amount of respiratory protection used, and direct versus indirect exposures.
Pneumoconiosis refers to a nonneoplastic alteration of the lung resulting from inhalation of mineral or inorganic dust (eg, “dusty lung”). The most common pneumoconioses are silicosis, asbesto-sis, and coal workers’ pneumoconiosis.
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