Occupational dusts and chemicals

Exposure to occupational dusts and chemicals plays a major role in the development of COPD for many individuals. Occupational exposure to organic and inorganic dusts, such as dust from coal, cotton and grain, can cause COPD.1 In addition, chemical vapours, irritants and fumes can also contribute to progression of the disease. Coal miners, hard-rock miners, tunnel workers, concrete manufacturing workers, and non-mining industrial workers have been shown to be at highest risk for developing COPD.2

In addition, second-hand smoke may be considered an occupational hazard, for individuals who work in establishments where smoking is allowed.

Occupational exposure to COPD risk factors is largely preventable, through the use of protective clothing and enforcement of regulations on exposure levels in the workplace.


  1. Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD): Global Strategy for the Diagnosis, Management, and Prevention of COPD. 2013www.goldcopd.org
  2. Boschetto P, Quintville S, Miotto D, et al. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and occupational exposures. J Occup Med Toxicol 2006;1:11.


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