Your lungs will hurt by the end of this article. Ok, maybe they won’t hurt.

But you are going to be more aware of your lungs today than ever before.

And that’s how you should live going forward.

By being aware of your lungs, you’ll remember to protect them from workplace dust.

Dust can cause serious damage to your breathing system and these are the seven jobs most likely to cause harm.

Already dealing with dust issues? Shop dust monitors now.

illustration of lungs with caption is work damaging your lungs?

The 7 worst jobs for your lungs:

1. Construction

Construction workers inhale mould, lead, wood dust and asbestos during renovations and demolitions.

Silica (quartz) is a common mineral found when breaking new ground.

It’s also a known carcinogen.

Silica inflames and scars the upper nodes of your lung.

It leads to silicosis and lung cancer.

2. Welding

Aluminium, arsenic, beryllium, lead and manganese.

These are some of the elements contained in welding and grinding fumes.

Leaving the shop door open for ventilation isn’t enough (we explain why here).

Welded dust is linked to many types of cancers including lung, eye and kidney.

3. Firefighterdust particle facts

Visible smoke is only part of the danger when fighting structural or wildfires.

When furniture, paint or cleaning chemical burn, it creates fumes like carbon monoxide.

We can’t see most of the danger from fires and it can be absorbed through your skin or inhaled into your lungs.

4. Mechanic

Mechanics do a lot to repair a car:

  • welding
  • grinding
  • sanding
  • blasting, and
  • painting.

Each task comes with its own set of risks.

We’ve mentioned a few of the carcinogens you may breathe in from these tasks.

Heavy mobile equipment maintenance brings the risk of breathing diesel exhaust.

301,000 Ontario workers are exposed to diesel particulate matter (DPM) on the job. 170 develop lung cancer because of it each year.

5. Mining

Breathing problems are high on the list of risks for surface, underground and quarry mining.

There’s the issue with DPM from running engines. There is also blasting, crushing and transporting minerals.

Dust is happening all over the place in every type of mining.

6. Healthcare/Pharmacy

Preparing, administering, manufacturing and throwing out medication exposes workers in healthcare and pharmacies.

If you handle powdered chemicals, there is a real risk to inhaling high amounts of dust. Dust which could have bad side affects depending on the substance.

7. Farming

Farmers shovel and load silage, plow fields and spray pesticides.

Farmers also have high morbidity and mortality rates from respiratory diseases.

Farmers are also at risk for Farmer’s Lung. An allergic disease from breathing dust from mouldy crops like hay, straw, corn, grain and tobacco.

How to manage dust at work

These are 7 of the worst jobs for your lungs, but you can find dust in a lot of workplaces.

To protect yourself you need to follow the Hierarchy of Controls.

Start by eliminating the hazard if possible.

Then see if you can use engineered and administrative controls like air sampling and dust monitoring

These tools can give you an idea of the concentration, size and makeup of the dust in your workplace.

This way you can test for the hazard and contain, ventilate or eliminate it at its source.

Once you’ve done this, consider using respirators to protect yourself from other dust risks.

Hint: Download our free Guide to Respiratory Protection here

Jonathan McCallum

Market Segment Manager: Occupational Health, Industrial Hygiene & Environmental Monitoring

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