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Lung diseases caused by New Jersey work environments

Unhealthy habits, like smoking, and family medical histories have contributed to medical problems many Bergen County residents suffer today. However, lifestyle choices and pre-programmed genetic codes aren’t the only reasons people develop serious health conditions. Some conditions, like occupational lung diseases, are caused by working in toxic environments.

Work-related respiratory illnesses and diseases can be chronic or life-threatening. In all cases, the conditions are linked to air poisoned by toxins. The health problem can be the result of frequent, long-term or one-time exposures to substances that irritate or damage the lungs, temporarily or permanently.

Symptoms of some conditions, like sick building syndrome and adult-onset asthma, appear soon after exposure and may subside when exposure ends. Some of the deadliest diseases take years, like silicosis, or decades, like mesothelioma, to manifest themselves. Occupational lung diseases can be avoided, provided employers take safety precautions to prevent them.

Job environments were responsible for lung diseases among 14,800 private industry employees and 7,800 government workers in 2008. Workers in some professions are more prone to lung diseases than other employees. High-risk jobs include mining, construction and industry work and many others, where employees are knowingly or unknowingly exposed to asbestos, coal or silica dust, smoke, pesticides, gases and chemical contaminants.

The most serious job-related lung diseases are incurable. Mesothelioma, lung cancer and silicosis are always or almost always fatal. Despite regulations that severely limit asbestos use and work safety rules to limit exposure to other dangers, workers continue to develop these conditions, for a total economic loss of up to $150 billion a year.

Employers know how to reduce exposure risks for workers. But, some companies ignore rules for air monitoring, employee safety training, proper ventilation and other prevention measures.

New Jersey employees diagnosed with occupational lung diseases may receive workers’ compensation benefits. Workers sometimes have valid reasons to file lawsuits against negligent parties for additional economic relief.