Asthma is a very serious health condition which can cause shortness of breath, tightness in the chest and wheezing. Asthma sufferers can find basic things become very difficult, such as climbing the stairs or playing with their children. Many sufferers of severe asthma find themselves unable to work in the industry they are trained in, or indeed they may become unable to work at all.
Occupational asthma is an allergic reaction that occurs in some people who are exposed to certain substances at work. The symptoms can develop at the time of exposure, but can also come on later at night, meaning it can be difficult to identify what is causing the breathing issues. Exposure to certain substances can change peoples airways, causing a ‘hypersensitive state’. Once the airways have become hypersensitive, further exposure to the substances can cause an attack, even at low levels.
The substances which cause occupational asthma are called ‘asthmagens’ or ‘respiratory sensitisers’. These could include, to list a few examples;
- Alpha-amylases – Enzymes that change starch into sugar. Used in flour milling and bread baking. Also used in detergents, animal feed, textile processing and brewing.
- Chromium (VI) compounds – Compounds present in stainless steel welding fume and cement and used in electroplating.
- Castor bean dust – Castor oil is used in paint, varnish, hydraulic fluids, printing inks, nylon, plastics and cosmetics and hair oils.
- Some hardwood dusts – A general term covering a wide variety of wood dusts. There are 12,000 species of trees of which 11,000 are hardwoods. About 40 species are implicated in causing occupational asthma.
- Latex – Natural rubber latex is from the Hevea braziliensis tree. Health care workers are particularly susceptible through the use of latex gloves. If used the gloves should be the ‘powder free’ type.
- Persulphates – Strong oxidising agents used to enhance the action of peroxide hair bleaches.
- Some softwood dusts – A general term covering a wide variety of wood dusts derived from mainly coniferous trees.
Work-related asthma means asthma that is made worse by working. Someone who had preexisting asthma, perhaps from childhood, can find their asthma aggravated by being exposed to cold air, dust or chemicals.
Trades at risk
Certain workers have higher reports of occupational asthma than others, these include:
- Vehicle spray painters
- Healthcare workers
- Agricultural workers
- Engineering workers
Respiratory conditions are a common industrial disease claim, here at ASD we have successfully represented many workers who have been in the past exposed to hazardous substances in their workplace. For more information about making a claim for your occupational or work-related asthma, please see our guide to respiratory conditions in occupational illness and industrial disease claims.
If you would like to speak to a solicitor for immediate advice on a no-win no-fee basis, please fill in our claims form or call us between the hours of 8 am – 9 pm on 0800 163 622.