Occupational Respiratory Disease in Philadelphia
There are many different diseases that can affect the lungs. Some of them develop from conditions in the workplace and are known as occupational respiratory diseases. Particulate matter or particles in the air such as dust, soot, and molds can be inhaled and absorbed into the body in this way. The finer the particles, the more damage there is to the lungs because of how deeply they can be inhaled. Occupational respiratory diseases in Philadelphia can manifest itself in mild forms that can be managed through treatment, but severe cases can lead to lung cancer and the risk of other diseases including tuberculosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Workers at high risk of developing occupational respiratory diseases include construction workers, those in the textile industry, firefighters, coal miners, and agricultural workers.
Common irritants to the lungs are found in many forms including:
- Dust from coal, asbestos, silica, talc, wood, cotton, and fiberglass
- Fumes produced in jobs that involve welding, smelting, furnace work, ceramics, and plastics manufacturing
- Smoke produced by burning materials can contain a variety of irritants in the form of particles, vapors, and gases
- Mists from pesticides, spray paint, and cleaning products
Types of Occupational Respiratory Diseases
- Asbestosis: A danger for construction workers working on older buildings that contain asbestos insulation. Asbestos exposure is also linked to mesothelioma.
- Bronchiolitis obliterans or Popcorn lung: A serious lung disease that develops in workers in microwave popcorn plants and others who handle flavorings. Butter flavorings in food products such as frostings, chips, and margarines pose a risk of popcorn lung for the workers exposed to them.
- Byssinosis or brown lung: A lung disease found in cotton, flax, and hemp workers
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): COPD is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. and includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
- Coal worker’s pneumoconiosis or black lung disease: Caused by inhaling coal dust
- Farmer’s lung: An allergy to mold and bacteria found in crops that produces asthma-like symptoms, but can also cause permanent lung damage that can be fatal.
- Flock worker’s lung: Flock is the result of cutting nylon fibers into small strands which are used for carpeting, blankets, and upholstery. Inhaling the fibers every day can cause inflammation and scarring of the lungs.
- Silicosis: Commonly known as miner’s lung, silica dust is also found in stone, clay, and glass manufacturing facilities
The symptoms of occupational respiratory disease can vary from person to person but commonly include coughing, dry or sore throat, chest pain and tightness, shortness of breath, and/or abnormal breathing pattern.
Diagnosis of an occupational respiratory disease begins with chest X-rays or a CT scan to check for inflammation, masses, or fluid in the lungs. Additional tests to measure lung function and biopsy of tissue, fluid, and cells from the lung may also be conducted, as well as an examination of bronchial (airway) activity.
If you have been diagnosed with an occupational respiratory disease, consult an experienced Philadelphia attorney as compensation may be available to you. Try to keep a record of your symptoms noting the day and time they occur and for how long. Your doctor will need to know what kind of materials you may have been exposed to at work and any previous employment history. He or she will also want to see your completed occupational health history forms. By law, your employer is required to keep records of all the products used in the workplace. You should obtain copies of these material safety data sheets (MSDSs) as well as a list of precautions and safety measures used at your job.
Several occupational diseases may become present when you are at your workplace. These include:
- Skin conditions: When exposed to chemicals, this can cause eczema, acne, dermatitis, friction blisters, and chrome ulcers.
- Poisoning: if you ingest toxic chemicals, you can suffer from poisoning resulting from carbon monoxide, lead, arsenic, and hydrogen sulfide.
- Exposure: when you work in extreme weather conditions, you may be subject to heat or cold that can lead to heatstroke, sunstroke, frostbite, and even heat exhaustion.
- Hearing loss: you may suffer from hearing loss if you work in an area with a baseline audiogram of 10 DB or higher. This is unsafe and can result in occupational disease.
Other illnesses can be particular to certain occupations, such as decompression sickness in scuba divers. You should be safe at work, and your employer and team should take precautions to ensure that no one is injured on the job. Contact a Philadelphia occupational respiratory disease attorney to discuss your injury and what led up to it. Under Philadelphia law, you have a right to file a workers’ compensation claim for an occupational injury or disease. The attorneys of Gross & Kenny, LLP, will be able to review your case and determine the best course of action for seeking compensation.
Prevention of Occupational Respiratory Diseases
Occupational respiratory diseases have no cure so prevention is critical. For many hazardous substances, there are federal standards for exposure with which employers must comply to protect their workers. Safety measures include taking steps to reduce dust and measuring the number of airborne particles to ensure they remain at acceptable levels. For tasks where dust cannot be reduced, respirators must be provided. Proper ventilation also helps keep the air in the workplace clean. If you are in Bustleton or South Philadelphia and have been diagnosed with an occupational respiratory disease, you may have to change jobs if your employer cannot limit your exposure.
Pennsylvania law provides for workers’ compensation benefits if your respiratory disease was caused by or aggravated by your employment. To be eligible for compensation, the disability had to take place within 300 weeks of your last job in an occupation that exposed you to the hazard. If your claim is successful you may receive payments for lost wages, specific loss benefits, and medical care including medicine and rehabilitation services. The statute of limitations for filing is very specific so it is crucial that you contact a qualified attorney without delay.
Workers’ Compensation Damages
When you enlist the help of a Philadelphia occupational respiratory disease attorney, we will fight to obtain compensation for your damages, including some of the following:
- Hospital bills
- Lost wages
- Prescription drugs
- Hospital bills
- Temporary disability benefits
- Permanent disability benefits
- Medical aid devices
- Death benefits
Depending on the circumstances of your case, you will be eligible for these and other damages. Keep in mind every case is different, and you may be entitled to different compensation than other cases based on how your accident happened and the damages you faced.
How Soon Should I File a Claim?
You must file a workers’ compensation claim immediately after being injured or diagnosed with an occupational disease. It is important to note that the disability that came from the disease must have occurred within 300 weeks of your employment. You must also keep in mind that you only have three years from the date of the injury to file a claim petition. For this reason alone, you should consult a workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible after suffering an injury on the job.
When it comes to respiratory illnesses, time limits changed slightly. You must have worked in this occupation for at least two years during ten years before contracting the disease. A good rule of thumb is to file and document everything as soon as possible. You should enlist the help of a Philadelphia occupational respiratory disease attorney.
These cases are complex, and you cannot trust just anyone to handle your livelihood and your future. Do not waste time working with your employer’s insurance company, as they will try to make you settle and lowball you. Instead, contact our firm today to discuss the details of your case and your legal options.
Learn More About Occupational Respiratory Disease in Philadelphia From Gross & Kenny, LLP
At Gross & Kenny, LLP, our skilled attorneys have the knowledge and experience to handle complex cases of occupational respiratory diseases in Philadelphia. Call us now for a free consultation about your case. We proudly serve injured workers throughout Philly and the surrounding areas, such as South Philadelphia and Bustleton.