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Is it possible to contract a disease in the workplace?

COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, is a lung condition that typically worsens over time. Most people associate COPD with smoking, but that is not the only way a person can contract the illness. As with other lung conditions, some workplace elements can make COPD an occupational risk.

In 2003, estimates put the relative incidence of adult COPD at over 10 million cases in the United States. However, some evidence suggests that COPD may be under-diagnosed because in that same year approximately 24 million adults in the nation suffered from impaired lung function. While cigarette smoking can cause COPD, the CDC points out that around 15 percent of the disease can be traced to occupations in the U.S.

The construction and mining industries play a large role in the volume of work-related COPD. Other kinds of labor that may lead to COPD in workers include the manufacturing of plastics, rubber, leather and textiles just to name a few. The reason COPD is a hazard in these industries and others is because of the dusts associated with these jobs.

COPD symptoms often include:

-- A persistent daily cough

-- Excessive phlegm production for two or more years

-- Shortness of breath

-- Wheezing

-- Cyanosis (blue lips or fingernail beds)

-- Tightness in the chest

-- Frequent respiratory infections

-- Later, patients may experience weight loss and lack of energy

It is important to address any COPD symptoms that may occur, especially if you believe the symptoms may be work-related. Prompt attention can prolong your life while helping to solidify any workers' compensation claims. Remember that COPD can be life-threatening and costly to treat. You should consider speaking with a New Jersey attorney about workers' comp and other long-term options if you believe you are suffering from an occupational disease like COPD.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Respiratory Diseases," accessed Jan. 19, 2016

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