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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, fewer realise that this chronic disease could be linked to our working environment.

Wednesday, 17 November is World COPD Day – a time 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?

Typically, COPD 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
  • Increase mucus production by the lungs.
     

What causes COPD?

Tobacco smoke is often considered a key cause of COPD. 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.

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.


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

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