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Imagine every breath you take being a life or death battle to draw just enough oxygen into your lungs.

Sadly, this is the struggle faced by nearly half a million Australians suffering with COPD – chronic obstructed pulmonary disease.

People often associate smoking tobacco with COPD. However, few realise that this chronic disease could be linked to our working environment, including rising cases associated with pesticide use. 

Wednesday, 15 November is World COPD Day, an opportunity to raise awareness of this illness, its causes and how those put at increased risk of developing the condition as a result of work may be able to hold their employers to account.

What is COPD and what are the symptoms?

COPD typically consists of damage to the small airways in the lungs, this damage causes the airways to become narrower, making it harder for air to get in and out of the lungs.

Sufferers develop a number of symptoms, including:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Increased mucus production by the lungs

What causes COPD?

A key cause of COPD is smoking cigarettes. However, international research estimates that more than one in seven cases could be associated with workplace exposure.

Breathing dust derived from cotton, flour, mineral and wood, as well as exposure to welding fumes, chemicals, pesticides and gasses have been shown to increase a worker’s risk in developing COPD.

Some of the most high-risk industries tend to be mining, construction, gas and petroleum work, quarry and stone work, welding, timber work, textiles and agriculture.

How is pesticide use linked to COPD?

We're seeing an increase in cases that are linked to regular exposure to pesticides, such as workers in agriculture, gardening and pest control. 

Recent studies published in the UK show that workplace exposures are estimated to be related to 14% of cases. The agents in the study included:

  • Biological and mineral dusts
  • Gases and fumes
  • Herbicides, insecticides and fungicides
  • Aromatic solvents and chlorinated solvents
  • All pesticides and vapours

What should you do if you've been exposed at work?

Get a medical examination. If you have worked in a dusty workplace and are concerned you may be at risk, see your GP and inform them of your occupation and exposure levels.

Any person who works in industries with exposure to dust, chemicals and/or gasses should get regular medical examinations and be monitored for signs and symptoms of lung disease.

Why you might need legal advice

If you have been diagnosed with COPD and have a history of work exposure to dust, chemicals and/or gasses, it is important to get legal advice to help you understand your rights and options irrespective of whether you have a smoking history or not.

We can help with disease exposure claims

Our experienced lawyers have a long history of fighting for the rights of people suffering from asbestos, silica and other dust related illnesses. If you've been diagnosed with a dust disease, you may have a claim for compensation. 

It doesn't cost you anything to know where you stand 

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We have lawyers who specialise in a range of legal claims who travel to Australian Capital Territory. If you need a lawyer in Canberra or elsewhere in Australian Capital Territory, please call us on 1800 675 346.

We have lawyers who specialise in a range of legal claims who travel to Tasmania. If you need a lawyer in Hobart, Launceston or elsewhere in Tasmania, please call us on 1800 675 346.