Your lungs are vital organs. While you may not think much about breathing, if your lungs develop a respiratory condition, you may never breathe freely again. Unfortunately, workers often develop lung conditions at work. When they do, physicians often tend to refer to lung ailments as occupational respiratory disease.

Occupational respiratory disease is a catchall way to describe any lung condition you develop on the job. While not an exhaustive list, farmer’s lung, asthma, black lung, asbestosis and silicosis are all types of occupational respiratory diseases. Because of the severity of these conditions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regularly monitors worksites for lung-health hazards. Still, you should understand why job-related lung illnesses often develop if you want to minimize your chances of contracting one.

Liquid vapors

Many types of liquids emit vapors that are toxic to the human body. If you breathe these vapors, you may experience eye, nose and throat irritation. Eventually, though, some vapors may injure your lungs, causing you to develop occupational respiratory disease.

Smoke

Smoke can damage lungs. Even worse, as you may know, smoke from some types of burning objects may have greater toxicity. As such, if your job requires you to burn anything or work near fire, you must wear respiratory protection to keep from acquiring a job-related respiratory ailment.

Gas fumes

Breathing gas fumes, such as those that come off fuel, formaldehyde, ammonia and sulfur dioxide, may burn your lungs. If you are a welder, farmer or factory worker, you may work with gases every day. Wearing a safety-rated respirator is typically an effective way to protect your lungs from chemical exposure.

Dust

Ordinary dust can wreak havoc on your lungs. As such, you are at an increased risk of developing occupational respiratory disease if you work in a dirty environment. Still, even if your worksite is tidy, certain items may make their own dust. Insulation, asbestos, coal and cotton may shed particles that are harmful to your respiratory system.

Respiratory illnesses are no laughing matter. Still, while occupational respiratory disease sometimes appears quickly, it can take months, years or longer to reveal itself. By understanding how workers tend to acquire the condition, you can better plan for staying safe on the job.